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DUKE 
UNIVERSITY 




LIBRARY 



The Thread of My 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2014 



https://archive.org/details/threadofmylifeOOthor 




WILLIAM LOFTIN PUBLISHERS 

CHARLOTTE 



Copyright 1958 by Miles O. Thornburg 



Printed in the United States of America 
Heritage Printers, Inc. 
Charlotte, N. C. 



7 



Dedicated to my deceased wife 
Clyde 

for her inspiration and help through the years 
and to my present wife 
Lou 

for her patience and assistance during the 
writing of the manuscript 



CONTENTS 



Foreword 9 

CHAPTER I 

Boyhood and Youth 1 3 

CHAPTER II 

The Groves Thread Company 21 

CHAPTER III 

Travelogue 27 

CHAPTER IV 

The Fat Lady and Others 43 

CHAPTER V 

The Mountains Breed Men 51 

CHAPTER VI 

The Negro and the South 59 

CHAPTER VII 

We Tour the Southwest 69 

CHAPTER VIII 

Religious Assemblies 79 

CHAPTER IX 

My World War I Diary 87 

CHAPTER X 

Show Places in the Deep South 97 
Appendix 121 



FOREWORD 



Like most American businessmen, I lay no claim to being a 
writer, a speaker, or a preacher; but I have written numerous 
articles on various subjects, spoken on many occasions, and 
was at least once accused of being a preacher! On that occa- 
sion, Rev. D. F. Putnam of Shelby, North Carolina, invited 
me to make the dedication speech at a new church he had 
organized and built in Cleveland County. He introduced me 
by saying, "This is my old friend from Gastonia, a man who 
sometimes preaches without a license." 

The greatly beloved Dr. J. L. Vipperman had heard of this 
and while I was making a point with some emphasis before 
the Gaston County Baptist Association, he spoke out and 
said, "Brother Thornburg, I say 'Amen' to that, but I remind 
you that you are preaching without a license." 

Before going further, and as a preface to this story, it might 
be well for me to present a brief biographical sketch of my 
life. 

Birth and Relatives 

I was born July 5, 1891 on a farm near Kings Mountain, 
North Carolina. My father was Jonathan Samuel Thornburg 



9 



FOREWORD 

and my mother was Mrs. Nancy Anne Harmon Thornburg. 

In 1918, I married Miss Dora Clyde Adams of Atlanta, 

Georgia. She passed away on July 14, 1952, and I was married 

again on February 27, 1954 to Miss Annie Louise Mayes of 

Gastonia, North Carolina. 

My brothers and sisters who, including myself, make a 

dozen, are as follows: 

Robert S. Thornburg, Kings Mountain, North Carolina 

W. Henry Thornburg, Kings Mountain, North Carolina 

M. Lee Thornburg, Kings Mountain, North Carolina 

J. Thomas Thornburg, Atlanta, Georgia 

Love A. Thornburg, Charlotte, North Carolina 

Frank A. Thornburg, Spartanburg, South Carolina 

Charles E. Thornburg, Charlotte, North Carolina 

Mrs. W. F. Dover, Charlotte, North Carolina 

Mrs. W. C. Dixon, Charlotte, North Carolina 

Mrs. W. F. Wilson, Charlotte, North Carolina 

Miss Frances Ellen Thornburg, Kings Mountain, North 

Carolina. 

My son, M. O. Thornburg, Jr. and his family live in 
Atlanta, Georgia, where he is a sales executive with a broad- 
casting company. 

Education 

I attended grammar school at Kings Mountain, and Gas- 
tonia High School. Later I studied at Piedmont Junior Col- 
lege, Southern Commercial University in Atlanta, and the 
Textile Department at New York University. 

While attending Gastonia High School in 1910, I won the 

10 



FOREWORD 

S. N. Boyce Gold Medal in competition with high school 
contestants in Gaston County. In 1911 I represented Gas- 
tonia High in the Inter-State Declamation Contest held at 
Duke University, which was then Trinity College. 

Vocation 

I lived on the farm until I was sixteen years of age. While 
attending school, I taught for two years at Oak Grove and 
Ware Schools near Kings Mountain. I then entered the textile 
business at Kings Mountain, as assistant superintendent of 
the Sevier Cotton Mills. After two years in this capacity, I 
went to Atlanta where I became accountant and assistant 
manager of Piedmont Cotton Mills. After World War I, I 
settled in Gastonia, first with the Armstrong and J. O. White 
mill chains. In 1923 I joined the Groves Thread Company, 
and am at present Secretary and a Director of the company. 

Religious Activities 

I have been active all my life in church work, and have 
served five churches as Sunday School superintendent. My 
last such work was with the First Baptist Church of Gastonia, 
where I served as general superintendent for ten years, and as 
deacon for thirty years. I have served as clerk of the Gaston 
County Baptist Association and have been director of the 
Training Union and of Sunday School work in this Associa- 
tion, as well as President of the North Carolina State Train- 
ing Union and Vice President of the North Carolina Baptist 

1 1 



FOREWORD 



Brotherhood. My services as a speaker have been in demand 
in numerous churches in North Carolina and elsewhere. 

Civic and Fraternal Activities 

I am a Charter member of Gastonia Masonic Lodge, Hol- 
land Memorial No. 688, and also a member of the Chapter 
and Commandery and a Shriner. I served four years as secre- 
tary of Gastonia Masonic Lodge No. 449 before becoming a 
charter member of Holland Memorial Lodge, which I served 
for two years as secretary. 

I am a member and a former president of the Gastonia 
Civitan Club. As a member of the Piedmont Council B.SA. 
and the Gastonia Chamber of Commerce, I have served on 
important committees in both of these organizations. 

Army Record 

During World War I, I enlisted in the army at Atlanta and 
received basic training at Georgia School of Technology. 
From Officers Training School at Camp Joseph E. Johnston 
in Florida, I was commissioned a Lieutenant and assigned to 
the overseas accounting office, Port of New York. Here I 
served as investigating officer of overseas shipments and re- 
turns until the army was demobilized in August, 1919. 



12 



CHAPTER I 

BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 



Being the youngest of twelve children, I do not know as 
much about my parents as do my older brothers and sisters 
but I wish to record several facts. My father was born and 
reared near Dallas, North Carolina, which is the center of the 
Thornburg clan. His forefathers came from Germany via 
Pennsylvania. There were several of the Thornburg brothers 
who first came to America from Germany and according to 
family tradition one of them was an organ builder. I have 
often remarked that I was not sure whether it was "organ 
builder" or "organ grinder" but they do say he built organs 
in Pennsylvania during the early part of the nineteenth cen- 
tury and one of those organs is still in use in a very old Luth- 
eran Church at Madison, Virginia. 

My father served in the Confederate Army and received a 
citation at Weldon, North Carolina, for holding a bridge 
against his own commanding officer. General Joseph E. John- 
ston had given strict orders that no one be allowed to cross the 
bridge across the Roanoke River without giving the pass- 
word. My father was guarding the north end of the bridge 
one night when General Johnston approached on his horse. 
Father ordered him to halt and give the password. When the 



*3 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

General stated who he was and refused to give the password, 
Father ordered him to dismount. Thereupon the General 
gave the password and was allowed to proceed. When Father 
was ordered to headquarters the next day he thought possibly 
it was to be shot. He was agreeably surprised when, instead of 
a reprimand, he received a citation. 

My father, as a planter and head of a household containing 
twelve children, necessarily lived a rugged life, but he was a 
good citizen and Christian gentleman and served for many 
years as a deacon in Bethlehem Baptist Church near Kings 
Mountain. 

My mother was a noble woman, the daughter of Haywood 
Harmon, one of the largest planters in Cleveland County, 
North Carolina. Grandfather Harmon was loved and re- 
spected in Cleveland County and I recall hearing my mother 
tell how the neighbors all came to his house the night of the 
Charleston earthquake in 1886. When they were assured by 
him that it was an earthquake, they all went home and went 
to bed. J. G. Stevens of Loris, South Carolina has written an 
account of the earthquake. His description is vivid: 

"Only a handful of people are still living here in Horry 
County who remember the Charleston earthquake of 1886 
and the horrible fright it caused in the low country of the 
Carolinas. But those who do remember it still love to tell 
about it. 

"Oldtimers tell us of the mighty roar like thunder from 
underground and in the air, the terrifying tremble of the 
earth and the fearful cries and prayers to God for forgiveness 
and for safety. 



The Thread of My Life 

"Many thought the earth would open up and swallow 
them. 

"Others thought the end of time had surely come. But 
whatever else they thought, they thought it was time to pray. 

"To this day they recall how cotton fields were bobbing 
up and down like a small boat on a turbulent lake; the sway- 
ing of trees, and clay chimneys toppling over. 

"An old coon hunter tells how his dogs, at the first tremble 
of the earth, stuck their tails between their hind legs and 
lit out for home! 

"Many people who had been making wine cut down their 
grapevines as a token of their repentance. They started going 
to church as never before and paying the preacher, too. Those 
who didn't have money gave a ham or other produce from 
their farms." 

The fact that my mother raised twelve children shows only 
one side of her character. She was a tomboy in her youth, and 
was possibly the only woman field recruit for the Confederate 
Army. She said she was always considered as being rough and 
tumble by her family, and being a good kettle drummer, she 
was drafted by the Recruiting Board at Elbethel Community 
in Cleveland County. She beat a kettle drum for the new 
recruits to drill by during the latter part of the war. 

My work started when I started to school at six years of age, 
as my parents took the position that, "when you are old 
enough to go to school, you are old enough to go to work." 
So after school and between sessions, we did the chores of 
hog and stock feeding, bringing in the water and wood, and 
attending the farm. We did not have many holidays, but we 



*5 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

always went to our county seat, Shelby, North Carolina, on 
the Fourth of July and on circus day in October or Novem- 
ber, when Barnum & Bailey's show came to town. 

When I was fourteen, I had my first long trip on a bicycle. 
My father gave me a half acre of land on which to plant my 
crop of cotton. I made about 600 pounds and sold it "in the 
seed" for thirty dollars, so I got on my bicycle and rode from 
Cleveland County to Gastonia, a distance of 20 miles, to buy 
my first suit with long pants. I went into Mr. Schneider's 
store, and he showed me a nice blue serge suit at $15.00. I 
told him how little money I had to buy all my things for 
"boarding school" and that I had come all the way from 
Cleveland County on a bicycle to his store. So, he sold me the 
suit for $10.00 and gave me a pair of socks, a tie, and a pair of 
suspenders. The former Mayor of Gastonia, Leon Schneider, 
is the son of that kindly old merchant. 

At an early age I became a plowhand and for several years 
had the "pleasure" of plowing a gray mule by the name of 
George. He was a stubborn mule and I never could under- 
stand how a mule could have so much sense and exercise so 
little of it. George got it into his head that he should have 
Saturday afternoon off like the rest of us. When I put his 
bridle and saddle on him to go to Kings Mountain, one Sat- 
urday afternoon, he reared up and stood on his hind legs 
and almost threw me out of the saddle. We had come to an 
intersection and he wanted to go to my brother's, a short way 
down one road; I wanted to make the long gallop to town. 
He kept rearing and trying to turn around; I backed him 

16 



The Thread of My Life 

with the severe bits in his mouth until we were about fifty 
yards past the intersection and then turned him around. Since 
he could not see the intersection from there, he went on 
towards town. George pulled this stunt every Saturday after- 
noon thereafter, but I had learned how to fool him, and so 
the backing trick always worked when he about-faced on me. 

I had not planned to make teaching a career, but having 
obtained an A-l certificate in 1909, I taught school and 
worked as assistant superintendent of a cotton mill at Kings 
Mountain for two years. Having decided on a business career, 
I then went to Atlanta, and attended the Southern Commer- 
cial College. After completing the course in accounting and 
commercial law, I got a job as accountant and assistant man- 
ager of the Piedmont Cotton Mills there. Just after finishing 
business school in Atlanta, I answered an ad for a bookkeeper 
at Willingham-Tift Lumber Company in Atlanta where Miss 
Mattie Clark was accountant. She interviewed me and rec- 
ommended me to Mr. W. B. Willingham. 

Miss Clark was a very fine C.P.A., hence, being most effi- 
cient, was hard to please. She showed her displeasure of me 
once or twice but otherwise was considerate of me, and being 
old enough to be my mother, invited me to go with her to 
dinner and Grand Opera. This made me redouble my efforts 
in her department. I observed that she detested flies and dust, 
so I got a fly swat and would not let my coat tail touch me 
until I killed every fly that entered our department. Then 
one day I observed that the large reference books under a big 
table in our room were warped and dust-covered. So I took a 



*7 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

rag and wiped them off and stacked them systematically. See- 
ing this, Miss Clark exclaimed, "Thanks young man, you are 
a boy after my own heart." 

About this time she recommended me as accountant for 
the Piedmont Cotton Mills of which Mr. Baynard Willing- 
ham was manager, and introduced me to her good friend, 
Mrs. Nesbit, at nearby College Park, where I obtained room 
and board. I shall always be grateful to Miss Clark, Mrs. Nes- 
bit, and to the Willinghams who befriended me when I was 
a young man. 

One of my jobs at the Piedmont Cotton Mills was to buy 
the local cotton. I recall offering a colored man 614 cents 
per pound for a bale of cotton one day during the panic of 
1913 but he preferred to store the cotton. So we gave him a 
receipt for it and one year later he came back and we paid 
him I21/2 cents per pound— cotton prices having increased 
100 percent in one year. Those were hectic days. My salary 
was sixty dollars a month but I was able to obtain good board 
and room for twelve dollars a month. I walked about three 
miles morning and evening to save five cents carfare. Shoe 
leather must have been cheap in those days, for at today's 
prices I would have spent more for half-soling my shoes 
than I would have saved on carfare. But the cotton that was 
six cents a pound, now sells at thirty-five, and with today's 
inflation level, I saved what would amount to about 35 cents. 
I also got as much good exercise as you could get from a game 
of tennis, thereby saving the expense of a sports hobby. When 
I left the Company to enter the army in World War I, I was 
earning 125 dollars a month, and so was able to stay at a 

18 



The Thread of My Life 

"swanky" boarding house where I paid 20 dollars a month 
for room and board. 

Having my army basic training at Georgia Tech worked 
out well for me as I had married Miss Clyde Adams of Hape- 
ville, Georgia and was living at Atlanta. After a session at 
Georgia Tech, I reported to Camp Johnston, Florida, at the 
Quartermaster Training School. Commissioned a Lieutenant, 
I was assigned to the overseas accounting office in New York 
City where I "fought the battle of Broadway" until mustered 
out in August, 1919. 



19 



CHAPTER II 

THE GROVES THREAD COMPANY 



jAls stated earlier, my wife and I spent 1918 and 1919 in New 
York and made many excursions out from there, sight-seeing. 
The winter of 1918-19 was a very severe one and the city was 
coated with snow and ice for several months. When my wife 
first joined me there, I took a great deal of pleasure in show- 
ing her the many places of interest. We ran around so much 
that she was stricken with a bad case of flu in December of 
1918. We had rooms on 96th Street and Central Park and our 
landlady told us of a good doctor who was refused for service 
because he was German born. She explained that he was do- 
ing all he could to help servicemen and their families, so she 
called him for us and he came very promptly. 

In a few days he had Mrs. Thornburg up and around. I 
wrote the doctor to send me a bill at once but he did not 
respond so I went to see him at his office. He said: "My dear 
Lieutenant, please do not offend me. This is the least I can 
do for my beloved America and if you or your wife need me 
again I shall be happy to come to you day or night free of 
charge." The prejudice we had against local Germans was 
natural at that time, but unfortunate, for most of them were 



2 I 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

loyal to their adopted country and did all they could or were 
allowed to do in its best interests. 

When I was commissioned at Camp Johnston, Florida and 
ordered to New York, it was the longest trip I had taken up 
to that time. On the train, a young Jewish man from New 
York occupied the berth over mine and engaged me in con- 
versation when we were approaching New York City. It was 
7:00 a.m. and he invited me to go to his home with him for 
breakfast. He saw I was a bit hesitant, but I consented to go. 

His mother was most cordial and served us a delicious 
breakfast. Then the young man took me to the subway and 
put me on the right train for my assignment at 204 Broad 
Street in downtown New York. These kind people had us to 
dinner several times while we were in New York. This experi- 
ence and many others of a business nature down through the 
years, has endeared the Jewish people to me. 

While we were living in New York I also met a Mr. Young- 
blood of the Youngblood Importing Company, having been 
introduced and recommended to him by his nephew and our 
good friend Mr. Willis Moore of Atlanta. The Youngbloods 
were very nice to us and, when I left the army in August of 
1919, he made me a flattering offer to join his company and 
promised to make me treasurer of the company within a year. 
This offer was hard to turn down as New York City had 
become fascinating to us, but we were just too homesick for 
the South to accept, so we returned. Gastonia has been our 
home since 1919. 

A chain of circumstances contributed to my coming to 
Gastonia after the War. In the first place, my employer in 



22 



The Thread of My Life 

Atlanta had found it necessary to fill my job while I was 
away. They hired a man with a large family of small children 
(about the only class of able-bodied men exempted from 
military service) , so I declined to return and claim my old 
job. Also, my aunt, Mrs. L. C. (O. W.) Davis, had lost her 
adopted son Jonathan Fayssoux, during the war, and urged 
me to come and look after her. I was able to arrange for a 
temporary job with Colonel C. B. Armstrong, with the Arm- 
strong chain of textile mills, and Mr. Arthur Winget, and my 
wife and I arrived in Gastonia on August 15, 1919. After a 
year with the Armstrong mills in the general offices, I went 
with J. D. Moore and J. O. White of the Moroweb and 
Modena Mills. In 1923 I made a connection with the Groves 
Thread Company, Inc., then chartered as Groves Mills, Inc., 
as accountant and office manager. Henry H. Groves was presi- 
dent, L. C. Groves, vice president, and Earl E. Groves was 
treasurer. The following year I was elected secretary of the 
company and shortly afterwards was also elected a member of 
the board of directors. 

The company had always specialized, and made only sew- 
ing thread of highest quality. Many apparel manufacturers 
took all their natural unfinished sewing thread from the 
Groves Mills. Then the company began to furnish many 
large garment manufacturers with finished thread, which 
Groves sent out to be bleached and dyed at finishing com- 
panies and shipped direct to the garment manufacturers 
under the Groves label and trademark. This, due to the 
superior quality of the thread, brought an urgent demand 
from many large garment manufacturers for Groves Mill to 



23 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

furnish the finished thread. In 1928 the company decided to 
build a finishing plant adjacent to its several spinning mills. 

I welcomed this opportunity to get into the finished thread 
business for several reasons. First, in the textile course at 
New York University, which I attended evenings during my 
army service, I had learned something about finishing thread. 
Also, in 1921 and 1922 I had had considerable experience in 
having natural thread bleached and dyed and put up on yard- 
age or precision-wound cones, when I was with J. O. White 
and J. D. Moore and the Modena and Morowebb Mill group. 
I had sold it to knitting mills in Pennsylvania as seaming and 
looping thread. 

The new Groves finishing plant was completed in 1929. 
It faced many problems. We had to go almost overnight from 
a market of 200 thread converters to one of 5,000 potential 
customers— garment and other manufacturers using finished 
thread. 

Having been very closely associated with Mr. Henry Groves 
and Mr. Earl Groves, it was understandable to me that they 
were reluctant to start the finishing of threads. In the first 
place, the company had been very successful in spinning 
threads, hence there was a natural inclination to let well 
enough alone. Then also the company realized that the fin- 
ishing entailed much detail and many "headaches." But mar- 
ket conditions forced the company to furnish thread, so the 
half million dollar finishing plant was equipped for all types 
of finishing thread. The company then adopted the slogan 
"Manufacturers of sewing thread for every stitching opera- 
tion." 

24 



The Thread of My Life 

The company had pioneered in the South in the early 
years of the twentieth century in manufacturing thread yarns, 
and then in 1929 it pioneered in finishing sewing thread. 
Groves Mills Incorporated became Groves Thread Company, 
Incorporated. 

We had to concentrate on sales, and someone had to be 
prepared to do considerable traveling. When spending week- 
ends in Atlanta with Mrs. Thornburg's relatives, I began 
selling finished thread and bringing back orders with me. 
The Groves principals told me I would be worth more to the 
company and to myself if I would commit myself to more 
traveling, so by 1931 I had almost entirely divorced myself 
from the accounting and office routine (which had been 
taken oven by Mr. James Bracey) and had become not a 
"Two-job Farley" but a "Three-job Thornburg." I bought 
the supplies, sold the waste or by-products, and sold thread. 
At my now somewhat advanced age and feeling a little "stiff 
at the joints," I wonder how I had the strength to do so much 
work without a breakdown in my health, but I came from a 
rather sturdy people and have always enjoyed good health. 

For about twenty years, I was the only salesman in the 
South who traveled for the company, except for an occasional 
trip made by Pat Reid, our production manager. A large 
percentage of the company's production has always been sold 
to thread converters and jobbers, of course, by Mr. John 
Strigner, who had served for many years as manager of the 
company's New York office. Henry and Earl Groves, Sr. were 
the efficient managers of the company for many years after the 
passing of their father L. F. Groves, the company's founder. 



25 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

Craig Groves was always head of the cotton department of 
the company and has served throughout the years as an officer 
and director. Claude Withers, Lome Payne and John Long 
served for many years as superintendents of the various 
plants. 

When Earl E. Groves passed away in 1952, his responsibili- 
ties fell upon the shoulders of his son, Earl T. Groves, who 
has done an excellent job of enlarging upon and carrying out 
the plans laid by his father. The mills have all been enlarged 
and modernized. A large spinning unit was added, and the 
entire organization reinforced. Sales have expanded consid- 
erably. Today, the company stands at the top in the manu- 
facturing of efficient sewing thread. Several companies are 
older and larger, but none are better. In fact, a well known 
thread converter made the statement some years ago that for 
more than a quarter of a century the name "Groves" had 
been a synonym of the best thread produced. 

I have been compensated in many ways for the years of 
work I have devoted to this organization. About the finest 
compliment a salesman can receive, both for himself and his 
company, is to earn the complete faith of his customers. Many 
manufacturers of garments have told me that they were com- 
pletely sold on Groves thread, and that if their contract 
expired before I could come to see them, I was to mail them 
a new one for renewal. 

My traveling for the Groves Thread Company has taken 
me into every part of the United States and most of North 
America. 



26 



CHAPTER III 

TRAVELOGUE 



In 1936 while serving as president of the Gastonia Civitan 
Club, I attended the Civitan International Convention at 
Hartford, Connecticut. At this time I was traveling a great 
deal, introducing and selling Groves finished thread, so we 
made it largely a business trip. My wife, her sister, Miss Mae 
Adams of Atlanta, and my son, Oliver, went with me on this 
trip via New York City to Hartford. After we left Hartford 
we traveled through New York State to Niagara Falls. Near 
Albany, in the mountains, we saw a lady selling ''ice water" 
at the side of the road. Being thirsty, we stopped. The water 
which came from the woman's spring, was just above freezing, 
and sold for one cent a glass. 

From Niagara Falls we traveled through Ontario, to De- 
troit, and went on to visit Cincinnati and the other larger 
cities in the Midwest. We stopped at Harding's tomb in 
Marion, Ohio, Grant's home in Georgetown, Ohio and the 
Mammouth Caves in Kentucky. 

My sister-in-law, Miss Mae Adams, was responsible for 
improving our education on this trip. We were at Detroit, 
having crossed over the bridge from Windsor, Canada. We 



2 7 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

were going through the inspection by the United States Cus- 
toms, and Miss Adams expressed her displeasure in her usual 
emphatic manner at the inspector ruffling the carefully 
packed underwear in her suitcase. This made the inspector 
both mad and suspicious. He then proceeded to take his time, 
and remove everything from her suitcase. We all felt sorry for 
poor Mae and for ourselves too, but we at least learned never 
to argue with the inspectors. 

My wife always enjoyed telling the joke on herself about 
our experience at Fuller Brush Company's big factory at 
Hartford. She had just had all her teeth pulled and, not being 
well, she remained in the car while we went through the 
plant. As we left the factory we were presented with tooth 
brushes. I was given an extra one for my wife, my son Oliver 
got one and one extra for his mother, my sister-in-law was 
given an extra one for her sister, and the committee at the 
front, having observed Mrs. Thornburg in the car, had taken 
her one. She always enjoyed the story about the time she had 
four tooth brushes but not a tooth in her head. 

To the Deep South and the Southwest 

In 1938, when Oliver was 14, he accompanied me on a trip 
via Savannah and Jacksonville to Miami. There we parked 
the car and took the boat to and from Havana, Cuba. 

While in Havana we were entertained by a customer. Our 
business friends spoke very little English but they had with 
them a well educated man from Switzerland. It was spring, 
and we were on an open porch or street patio enjoying a nice 

28 



The Thread of My Life 

Cuban lunch. I remarked how pleasant it was, and how nice 
it would be to live there. The man from Switzerland replied: 
"No, not live here. Nice to visit but not live." I then asked 
him why he did not take his wealth, then, and go back to 
Switzerland. "Fourteen reasons why I can't," he replied. 
"Cuban wife and thirteen Cuban children!" 

We then traveled via Tampa, Mobile, New Orleans, Hous- 
ton, San Antonio, and El Paso, to Holbrook, Arizona, where 
we visited the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. Oliver 
spelled me at the wheel, so we never felt tired. From Hol- 
brook we went via Albuquerque, to Amarillo, Dallas, Shreve- 
port, Vicksburg, Birmingham, Atlanta, and on home to Gas- 
tonia. 

In all my traveling of more than one million miles, I have 
never been involved in a bad accident, except on the trip 
mentioned above. At Rosenburg, Texas a cow jumped out 
from behind a high stack of cross ties. We hit her, and the 
front of the car was damaged some. Later the same evening 
near San Antonio, the side of the front seat caught fire, prob- 
ably from a cigarette. We were singed somewhat, as was the 
seat of the car, before we could stop and extinguish the fire. 
Between El Paso and Holbrook a large calf jumped from the 
brush; we hit the calf, killing it and doing some more damage 
to the front of the car. We were stopped by deputies in a 
nearby town, detained for two hours and forced to pay twelve 
dollars for the calf. As we left Dallas, a truck pushed in the 
rear of our car as we waited at a stop sign. The impact shoved 
us all the way across a wide street. 

In this accident I only received some bruises and shock, 



2 9 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

but Oliver suffered a brain concussion and had to be hos- 
pitalized for a week. The car also had to have considerable 
repairs. My cousin, Mr. Harold Egger, who was with Trav- 
elers Insurance Company in Dallas, had the entire damage 
taken care of. After the car was repaired, I continued the 
business trip home and Oliver flew home after he was released 
from the hospital. 

When I presented the repair bill to our local agent, Mr. 
Joe Holland, he said he would be glad to take care of it but 
he was going to send my pastor, Dr. B. A. Bowers, with me on 
the next trip. 

New Orleans and Other Interesting Places 

On my trips through the Southwest in the early spring I 
sometimes took my family with me. We timed things so as to 
reach New Orleans for the Mardi Gras. New Orleans is adver- 
tised as "America's most interesting city" and having visited 
most cities I must agree that no other city in the country is 
quite so fascinating, especially during Mardi Gras. The Audu- 
bon Bird and Animal Park is worth going to New Orleans to 
see. Then the antique shops on Royal Street, the famous eat- 
ing places and show places on Bourbon Street. Canal Street, 
which divides the newer section from the French section, is 
one of the showplaces in America. There are many fine hotels 
in New Orleans but we always stay at the Old Monteleone 
because it is near the Vieux Carre or French Quarter. The 
hotel lobby is large and beautiful and boasts what may be the 
largest clock in America. It was imported from France, and 

30 



The Thread of My Life 

stands about 20 feet high. It is hand carved out of hardwoods 
and is very ornamental. 

On one of our trips through the Southwest we crossed the 
border at Laredo, Texas, and went to Monterrey, which is 
the largest city in northern Mexico. It is built on top of a 
mountain and is very old but has many modern buildings. 

We exchanged $10.00 for 100 pesos in Laredo and had 
enough for two days' travel in Mexico, including lodging and 
meals at one of the nicest hotels, for four of us. 

On one trip from San Antonio, we also stopped at Uvalde 
and inspected John Nance Garner's famous collection of 
gavels in the lobby of the hotel. It is possibly the world's most 
famous collection of gavels. Some were so small you could 
scarcely see them, while some were so large that one man 
could not wield them. Most of them were regular size and 
many had been made from famous hardwoods from various 
parts of the world and presented to Mr. Garner by admirers 
from many nations, as he was considered the world's leading 
"presider." 

In this same area we observed thousands of goats that 
looked very well, notwithstanding the fact that they had to 
root under the ground for grass roots in order to survive. We 
were told that it had not rained in that area for several years, 
so the grass roots would flourish under ground during the 
cool nights but could not come further than the top due to 
dry hot weather in the day time. The goats were corralled at 
night and given irrigation-water and fed hay that had been 
made in an oasis supplied by water from a mountain canyon. 
Even under these circumstances we were told that more goats 



3i 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

were raised there than in any other part of the country. 

One of our most enjoyable experiences was to cross the Rio 
Grande at El Paso and have dinner at Juarez (pronounced 
"Warez") . This is a city of about 100,000 inhabitants. Most 
of the eating places used to be very uninviting, but the tour- 
ist trade in recent years has greatly improved conditions in 
these Mexican border cities. 

One of the longest trips I made in the '30s was to the West 
Coast. It was in July and my family traveled with me. We 
traveled 8,500 miles to New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, El 
Paso, Carlsbad Caverns, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Los 
Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Reno, Denver, Colorado 
Springs, Wichita, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Memphis, Birm- 
ingham, and Atlanta. 

We were very much amused at San Antonio's reaction to 
the publicity given to the expositions being held in other 
Texas cities that year. Houston did extensive advertising. 
Dallas had large signs on the highways. There was the Texas 
Centennial, Texas Under Seven Flags, and the Cavalcade of 
the Americas. Fort Worth had the Frontier Exposition. San 
Antonio had no exposition, as the other larger cities had 
stolen the show, but San Antonio put up large signs reading— 
"Remember the Alamo— San Antonio." So, they had their 
share of visitors as tourists felt they had not seen Texas unless 
they had seen the Alamo. 

A trip to the West Coast is very interesting but an East- 
erner is usually glad to return East. Los Angeles with its three 
million people has been growing faster than the newcomers 
could be absorbed. At one time officers were stationed at its 



32 



The Thread of My Life 

approaches to welcome you as a visitor but not as a resident. 
San Francisco was a delightful place to cool off in after leaving 
Los Angeles. It was so cool there in July that the windows 
had to be closed, and we slept under blankets and people were 
wearing their overcoats on the street. 

At Salt Lake, as we approached Salt Lake City, we stopped 
and went swimming. We could hardly believe our eyes when 
we saw small children who could not swim, wading in the 
lake where the water was 20 feet deep. We found when we 
got in the water it was so thick with salt that one could not go 
under. After we swam out into the lake we decided to stand 
up and tread the water as others were doing, but were embar- 
rassed and somewhat disgusted when we found we could not 
get our feet to go down. A young lady nearby, seeing our 
predicament, came to our assistance and told us to draw our 
feet up to our bodies and then force them straight down. To 
our amusement and delight it worked and we were able to 
walk around in the water even though it would have been 
well over our heads had our feet been on the bottom. 

In Denver it was the grasshopper season and they had come 
in from the west to the extent that places on the streets were 
almost impassable due to the grasshoppers having been 
stepped on and crushed on the sidewalks. 

In Hot Springs we found the water was really hot, so much 
so in fact, that you had to cool it before you could drink it. 

Interesting Places Visited 
Our trips to New England and also to New York City have 



33 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

always been fascinating. And although we lived, or rather 
were stationed, in New York City during World War I, we 
really never saw the city until a few years ago. We took a 
sightseeing trip in a bus from Times Square and covered most 
of the places of special interest. 

Those who have taken this trip know the guide is very 
humorous. To him, Broadway is "The street of a million 
lights and also of a million broken hearts." Of the fine resi- 
dential places up toward Central Park, he said, "You must 
have a family tree to live here but there can be some crooked 
limbs on it." As we passed by the statue of the famous pioneer 
publisher, Horace Greeley, he announced: "There he is, the 
man who advised young men to 'go West,' but as for Mr. 
Greeley, he preferred to stay in New York and make a million 
dollars, and those who took his advice have been walking 
back ever since." 

In April of 1955 my wife Lou and I parked our car at the 
Miami airport and flew to Havana, Cuba. We had always 
previously gone by boat, but being pressed for time, we 
decided to fly. This is a most interesting trip. You can clearly 
see Key West from the plane. We spent three days and nights 
in Cuba and were fortunate in being able to see the Cuban 
Mardi Gras, which is put on by nationals from all parts of 
Cuba. It is very weird and colorful. This is a great show and 
in some respects, is more spectacular than the New Orleans 
Mardi Gras. 

Also, the Tropicana, one of the most interesting night 
clubs in all the world, is near Havana. It covers fifteen acres 
and is really one of the showplaces of the world. It has three 



34 



The Thread of My Life 

orchestras and puts on several huge stage shows each night. 
One half of the theater portion is outside, and one half inside, 
and which side is used depends upon the weather. The shows 
were staged on the outside the night we were there and "be- 
lieve it or not" much of the show was staged in the tops of 
large trees that surround and are a part of the huge amphi- 
theater. We were entertained royally while there by Dr. and 
Mrs. Mario Stone. Dr. Stone, who was educated in the United 
States, is a good friend of the Groves family and the writer. 

Havana, one of the largest cities in the world, has a popula- 
tion of almost two million. Like New Orleans, it has both the 
old and the new. Many of the famous market streets are just 
wide enough for a car to pass one way and the sidewalks are 
but "one person" wide. In the new areas are many fine and 
large hotels, such as the beautiful Nationale and the Havana- 
Hilton. 

The capital building, erected in 1930, cost eighteen million 
dollars and has a very large diamond set in the center of the 
gorgeous lobby. The diamond was stolen some years ago but 
the thief repented and mailed it back to the government; 
since then it has been watched day and night by armed guards. 

Travels through Virginia in 1955 

On most of my trips I have called on customers. In fact, 
Oliver, on one of our trips many years ago when he was a 
little boy, asked: "Daddy, can't we ever take a trip without 
working business?" So a recent trip to Virginia was purely a 
pleasure trip. Mrs. Thornburg has a fine friend in Norfolk, 



35 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

Mrs. Harry Midgette, with whom she taught school for many 
years after they finished college. Mrs. Midgette, whose hus- 
band is with the Seaboard Air Line Railway at the company's 
head office in Norfolk, invited us to come and spend a night 
with them. They took us to the Hampton Roads Lobster 
House for dinner and were most gracious hosts. 

After leaving Norfolk the next morning we crossed Hamp- 
ton Roads on the Newport News ferry as I had done on many 
former occasions, and went by for another visit to Williams- 
burg — then "on to Richmond" where we were luncheon 
guests of officials of the State Planters Bank and Trust Com- 
pany. 

In the afternoon we drove via Appomattox to Lynchburg. 
My first wife and I stopped there many years ago while en 
route from Richmond to Lynchburg. She prided herself on 
being prejudiced on some subjects and somewhat of a Rebel 
on the subject of the Civil War. At first she did not get out of 
the car and when I mentioned her lack of enthusiasm for the 
place she answered, "I remember something was lost here, 
but I haven't lost anything." It is very interesting to see the 
old buildings just as they were at the surrender. It is said that 
when General Lee walked up to General Grant's headquar- 
ters between a row of Union soldiers with bayonets fixed he 
thrust his hat on one of the bayonets and ordered the Union 
soldier to hold the hat for him. I cannot accept this story, 
however, as I think General Lee was too much of a soldier, 
statesman, and Christian gentleman to stoop to such an indig- 
nity. 

The following day we went to Captain and Mrs. John 

36 



The Thread of My Life 

Barrett's at Lexington, Virginia, for a luncheon. Captain Bar- 
rett is a son of my former Pastor, Dr. W. C. Barrett, and is 
Professor of History at Virginia Military Institute. Many 
people do not know it, and in fact, I had to be reminded, that 
General Robert E. Lee is buried there at Lexington, Virginia 
on the campus of Washington and Lee. The same day we 
visited again the Natural Bridge, which I think is one of the 
most fascinating spots in America. 

We arrived at the Homestead Hotel at Hot Springs, Vir- 
ginia, in the afternoon, and attended the sessions of the 
Combed Yarn Spinners Association. This is one of the finest 
hotels in the country. In fact, it is very old, very large and 
very fine. It has an air of history. Thomas Jefferson rested 
in that hotel in 1800 after his successful presidential cam- 
paign. The part of the building in which he stayed still stands, 
but the hotel has been added to several times and now con- 
tains approximately 700 rooms and the main dining room 
will seat a thousand people. The main dining room opens on 
Sunday morning at eight o'clock but guests arrive at 7:40 to 
hear the 200 colored waiters and waitresses give a religious 
service consisting of scripture reading, a prayer and spirituals. 
This is very impressive and has been a tradition of the hotel 
for many years. 

After breakfast Sunday morning, we drove down the Blue 
Ridge Parkway to Taylorsville, North Carolina, where we 
had dinner with my nephew, Rev. Love Dixon, and I spoke 
for him at his church Sunday night on a subject I have used 
on many occasions— "The Layman and His Church." 



37 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

Commodities of United States of America 

In my extensive travels during the past twenty-five years, I 
have had occasion to see many commodities and products 
about which I was familiar but the source of which I had for- 
gotten or did not know. Of course, most people in the south- 
east are familiar with the fact that our peanuts, peaches and 
tobacco are grown in the eastern parts of North Carolina, 
South Carolina, and Georgia, and our citrus fruits in Florida, 
the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and Southern Cali- 
fornia. Our principal supply of goats and sheep comes from 
southwest Texas. From San Antonio to El Paso it is practi- 
cally one pasture, 600 miles long. 

We also observed while in California that our principal 
supply of celery comes from one or two counties about 100 
miles south of San Francisco. Our wheat comes from north- 
west Texas— the distance of about 300 miles from Sherman to 
Amarillo is a solid field of wheat. On a clear day in June 
I have been able to see at one sweep of the eye as many as a 
dozen combines running. It was also interesting to see the 
great Midwest Corn Belt. One day I passed through a "corn 
field" about 400 miles long. The corn is planted about as 
thick as sugar cane or cotton in the row. 

It was also of interest to note while on my way from Albany, 
New York to Niagara Falls, that the south central part of 
New York State is the cherry belt. In June, when I traveled 
that way for about 200 miles, it seemed I was passing through 
one great cherry orchard. It was late in June and the cherries 
were very beautiful. 

38 



The Thread of My Life 

I shall not undertake here to enumerate all the principal 
commodities and products and their sources, but being in the 
combed yarn industry and being a resident of Gastonia, 
North Carolina, I think I should mention the fact that Gas- 
tonia is the headquarters for the combed yarn industry and 
most of the fine combed yarns produced in the United States 
are from Gastonia and Gaston County. In fact, on a real clear 
day, you can stand on top of one of Gastonia's highest build- 
ings and count the smoke stacks of about 200 textile mills. 
The majority produce or finish combed yarns and fine fabrics 
made from the longer and finer varieties of long staple cot- 
tons. 

New England Travelogue 

One of the most interesting and informative trips I have 
made was a trip through New England. After attending the 
Cotton Thread Institute meeting in New York City, I took 
the fast train in company of Mr. Maurice Chaffin of Bay State 
Thread Works, now a department of Groves Thread Com- 
pany, to Springfield, Massachusetts. We had dinner on the 
train and arrived at 8:00 p.m. The next morning Mr. Chaffin 
took me by the huge plant where the famous Springfield 
rifles are made under Government supervision. Then we 
went through the city's park and museum. While passing by 
the large lake in the park, I saw thousands of wild geese and 
was told they had just come in from Canada, and it being 
early November, would leave in a few days on their next lap 
to Ansonville, North Carolina and after a brief stop-over in 
North Carolina, go on to Florida for the winter and then back 



39 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

by the same route in the spring. Even these geese have sense 
enough to spend their winters in Florida, their summers in 
Canada, and the between season in North Carolina. 

From Springfield I went to Worcester for a few hours. It is 
indeed a quaint and interesting old city with much history 
connected with it. In Boston I visited many historical places 
and had dinner at the Durgan Park Restaurant in the Faneuil 
Hall area on the water front. 

From Boston I went to the old shoe manufacturing city of 
Brockton and to New Bedford and then via Fall River to 
Providence. This was in the fall of 1949, after much of the 
textile industry had dismantled or moved South. As I passed 
through Fall River I remarked to the man sitting by me on 
the bus about the vacant and dismantled mills and asked him 
about the textile industry. He, being an elderly man and a 
life-long resident of New England, said, "Well you are a visi- 
tor and entitled to know the truth. I can tell you that the crux 
of the whole matter is union racketeering and high taxes." 

According to his story, the mills for many years were poorly 
managed and this invited union organizers, and when they 
were organized their demands became unreasonable. He also 
stated that the city tax rate and the state and county rates 
were more than $4.00 each or an approximate $10.00 com- 
bined rate as compared with about $3.00 in Southern towns 
and cities. After hearing his story I could understand why 
many New England mills moved to more favorable locations. 

We arrived at Providence early in the afternoon and my 
first interest was to visit the historic First Baptist Church 
founded by Roger Williams in 1636. This was the first Bap- 



40 



The Thread of My Life 

tist church established in America and the settlement was 
named Providence by Roger Williams as he considered it 
providential that he had settled at that place. 



4* 



CHAPTER IV 

THE FAT LADY AND OTHERS 



I think I shall mention some of the most unforgettable char- 
acters I have met. I could never forget the big fat lady that 
ran a hosiery mill in North Carolina. I sold her seaming and 
looping thread during World War II and in the Korean War 
period, but did not get by to see her for a year or two after we 
started selling her, due to the gas situation. Finally I spent a 
night in her town and when I inquired about her factory, at 
the hotel the next morning, the clerk said, "You're not going 
around there are you? She will throw you right into that river 
nearby." 

When I reached her place she was on the outside of the 
building and when I approached her I took out my cigarettes 
and offered her one. She looked at me and said, "No, my dear 
man, I do not smoke or drink but am tempted to cuss a little 
sometimes." 

"Well," I replied, "you seem to be getting along fine. Your 
husband is associated with you I suppose?" "No," she said. 
"He is associated with a horse. He does not like the hosiery 
business so I let him ride his horse," and then she lifted her 
eyes to a nice farm house and riding ring in the distance 
where her husband could be seen riding a saddle horse. She 



43 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

was a very large and rugged lady but she pointed to a nearby 
playground where she had employed a nurse to care for and 
feed free of charge about forty children, whose parents were 
working in her mill. She was rough and possibly misunder- 
stood in the community, but she had a heart of gold. As I left 
she almost squeezed my hand off and expressed her apprecia- 
tion of my visit and services. As I thought of this dear lady 
and many other people who are more or less misunderstood, 
I thought of the poem: 

Could we but draw back the curtains, 

That surround each other's lives. 

See the naked heart and spirit, 

Know what spur the action gives. 

Often we should find it better, 

Purer than we judge we should. 

We would love each other better, 

If we only understood. 
When I started traveling in 1930 one of my first trips was 
to introduce Groves thread to some prospective customers in 
the Midwest. On this trip I went by a large glove company in 
Dayton, Ohio to see a Mr. Farrell who was many years my 
senior. He complained of a trial lot of Fortress brand thread 
for sewing leather palm gloves. I told him we sold him the 
Fortress thread for cloth gloves and he should use our Samson 
brand for leather gloves. He asked, "What is Samson?" and 
so I told him it was a thread spun from the best and longest 
Egyptian Sakelarides staple and was just what the name im- 
plied. Like the smart young salesman I was, I thought I had 
it clinched, but Mr. Farrell, looking at me through the tops 



44 



The Thread of My Life 

of his eyeglasses inquired: "Before or after his hair was cut?" 

I must confess I was a little rattled so I had to wind myself 
up and start all over again. 

On one of my first trips to Georgia, I learned of the Ways 
and Means Factories, Inc. at Augusta run by a blind man 
named W. E. Smith. When I got into the building, which 
was shared with another concern, I approached a room in 
which sat a man with dark glasses on and asked, "Is this the 
Ways and Means Company?" He replied, "Yes, come in. 
More ways than means." For many years Mr. Smith, a blind 
man himself, worked 50 or more blind people making brooms 
and novelties. He used thread, and jobbed thread as well as 
his manufactured products all over the United States. His 
secretary kept the records in braille and the only one who 
could see was the receiving and shipping clerk. Mr. Smith, 
one of the finest men I have ever met, has done much for 
blind people, including a real estate development for the 
benefit of the blind in that area. 

Once when I spoke of his affliction he said, "Mr. Thorn- 
burg, sympathize with yourself, for you have to see some 
things that I don't," and he chuckled heartily. The magazine 
Nations Business wrote of him as the South's most outstand- 
ing blind man. When Mr. Smith retired from the jobbing 
and manufacturing business, he turned it over to his nephew 
and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Cook, but kept an interest in the 
business. He has formed a Foundation with offices in the 
Masonic building on Broad Street in Augusta, Georgia, and 
is making a substantial contribution to the blind in Georgia 
and South Carolina. 



45 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

Funny Sayings 

I always enjoy good humor in people, and like to remember 
sayings of comic characters. 

The first of these is Everett True. He asked his offiice boy 
to find him some information on a certain subject so the 
office boy went all through the office and gathered an armful 
of papers and piled them on Mr. True's desk and said, "I 
found some data here, some data there and some more data 
over there." Mr. True, disgusted as usual, took his umbrella 
from the waste basket and as he came down over the boy's 
head with it, exclaimed, "Data boy." 

"Hambone" is a very interesting character appearing in 
the Columbia State and other dailies. He usually comes up 
with some pretty good philosophy. Once he said he was "hav- 
ing an awfully hard time making ends meet but if he ever got 
them to meet again, he was gwine to tie 'em." 

Charlie McCarthy said he came from a line of long livers. 
He said, for instance, his aunt died at 102 years of age— but 
the baby lived. 

My wife and I have been on a diet recently, so after having 
hot tea for lunch and dinner for several months she remarked, 
"It looks like we are real tea totalers!" 

The poet Coleridge when asked if he believed in ghosts 
replied, "No, I've seen too many of them." 

A sales promotional office in New York City has this sign 
posted: "Samson slew 10,000 Philistines with the jaw bone of 
an ass. Every day as many sales are killed with the same 
weapon." 

4 6 



The Thread of My Life 

Dr. J. H. Henderlite, former pastor of the First Presby- 
terian Church, Gastonia, N. C, had a high sense of humor. 
When making a patriotic speech, he said it was the Pilgrim 
mothers who really had his sympathy as they had not only 
the hardships of the country but also the Pilgrim fathers to 
put up with. 

After performing a wedding ceremony on one occasion, 
as he approached the bride in the receiving line he said he 
believed it was kisstomary to cuss the bride. 

While I was presiding as president of the 8th District 
Baptist Brotherhood Convention in Hickory, N. C. Horace 
Easom, Executive Secretary, presented Keener Pharr, Minis- 
ter of Religious Education from the First Baptist Church, 
Charlotte, by referring to Mr. Pharr's bald head. Mr. Pharr 
responded by saying that when God made man he tried to 
be fair— to those He gave brains He did not give hair. 

Sabbath Observance 

My father and mother were easy-going in some respects, 
and they were not perfect, but on one point they never wav- 
ered and that was as regards strict Sabbath observance— some- 
times quoting, "Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy." 
Later in life I never could or wanted to get away from this. 
Shortly after I went to Atlanta, in 1910, 1 was serving as super- 
intendent of the First Baptist Sunday School in the suburban 
town of Hapeville and was also president of the Atlanta City 
Baptist Young Peoples Union. I remember apologizing to my 
boss, Mr, Baynard Willingham, for leaving on my vacation on 



47 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

a Sunday train. He replied, "Miles, you go ahead. Anyone 
who gives as much time as you do to religious work will not 
offend the Lord by riding on a Sunday train to see your 
mother." 

In this connection I recall a story I heard about that time 
of the Methodist Conference being held in South Georgia. 
Mr. Asa Candler, the Coca-Cola king, who was a very reli- 
gious man, had gone on Saturday to attend the Conference. 
They put him on a committee to meet his cousin, Bishop 
Candler, and the great evangelist, Sam Jones, at the railway 
station on Sunday. When they got off the train, Mr. Asa 
Candler said, "Boys, I am glad to see you but sorry you came 
down on a Sunday train." Sam Jones always had a good reply 
for every criticism: "Asa, you know my style. When the devil 
comes my way I always ride him." 

I remember apologizing once to my neighbor, Mrs. Tat- 
lock, a lovely English lady, for bringing her vegetables from 
the country on Sunday, and she replied, "Forget it. The 
better the day the better the deed." The Lord taught to do 
good on the Sabbath and I think the poet expressed it very 
well when he wrote: 

A Sabbath well spent, 

Brings a week of content, 

And joy for the toil of tomorrow. 

But a Sabbath profaned, 

Whatever may be gained, 

Is a sure forerunner for sorrow. 
If there is any one thing in my life that I am sorry for more 
than anything else it is my failure or inability to see the good 

4 8 



The Thread of My Life 

in some people. I realize that in many cases there are extenu- 
ating circumstances that are not fully understood and appre- 
ciated. Someone has very truthfully said: "There is so much 
bad in the best of us and so much good in the worst of us 
that it hardly behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us." 



49 



CHAPTER V 

THE MOUNTAINS BREED MEN 



^About twenty-five years ago while attending the Baptist 
Assembly at Ridgecrest, North Carolina, 15 miles east of 
Asheville, we purchased a building lot. A few years later we 
traded it in on a house. We spend most all our spare time 
during the summer, spring, and fall at this place. 

We love house comforts and conveniences so we have our 
mountain home well equipped with comfortable, inexpensvie 
furniture. There are inner-spring mattresses, an automatic 
water heater, electric refrigerator, electric stove, etc. Our 
theory has always been that if we cannot be as comfortable as 
we are at home, then we had rather be at home. 

We love to sit on the front porch of our cottage at Ridge- 
crest and look at Rattlesnake Mountain only a mile or two 
to the west. This beautiful mountain is so named because of 
its abundance of rattlers. Some very large ones have been 
killed, but it is very rare that one is found near the base of 
the mountain. Just across Rattlesnake Mountain is the Pres- 
byterian Assembly known as Montreat. Both the Presbyte- 
rian and Baptist summer assemblies are within two miles of 
the town of Black Mountain. We love to motor through these 
Blue Ridge Mountains in the summer. The mountains are 



5* 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

cool and beautiful with panoramas of laurel, rhododendron, 
wild azaleas and many other mountain flowers. God has 
blessed these wild acres with blackberries and blueberries 
which have an unusually nice flavor. Also, the mountain 
apples and grapes are the best to be had. Even the water is 
better there than any other place. At Ridgecrest, our water 
comes from the top of Kitasuma Mountain and is only a few 
degrees above freezing. In the summer, you do not need ice 
water as your water is cool enough from the spigot. Even 
during the dry summers of 1953 and 1954 our water supply 
was abundant. 

Once while on the way to the West Coast we passed several 
large gold mines and refineries in the western Rockies. We 
stopped at one of these gold mines and were shown around 
the plant. They were real nice to us, but much to my sorrow 
their courtesies did not include samples of their product. 

The lowlands, plains, flat country and seashore interest me 
but I am partial to the mountains. Mountains are restful and 
awe inspiring. The Good Lord did not overlook anything in 
forming this beautiful world of ours but I think He gave 
special attention to the mountains. 

How and when the mountains were formed has been a 
subject of much speculation. We usually think of a mountain 
as a high peak standing out above the surrounding country. 
This is true in case of the smaller mountains such as Kings 
Mountain, Crowders Mountain and Spencer Mountain in the 
vicinity of Gastonia, but the biggest mountains are usually 
high points of great and long ranges. Grandfather Mountain 
and Mount Mitchell in the North Carolina Blue Ridge 

5 2 



The Thread of My Life 

Mountains, Pikes Peak in the eastern Rockies, and Mount 
Whitney, which is a part of the Sierra Nevada range in south- 
eastern California, are of this type. 

As I crossed Death Valley about 100 miles south of Mount 
Whitney, I could see it faintly in the distance. This highest 
peak in the United States towers 14,496 feet above sea level, 
but even so, is small compared to Mount Everest's 29,002 feet. 

Geologists say that mountains are formed by pressure from 
beneath, with valleys or canyons being made by rapid water 
currents. As I recall Dr. M. E. Dodd, for many years pastor 
of the great First Baptist Church of Shreveport, Louisiana, 
once stated that the mountains were formed or at least greatly 
changed when Lucifer, the rebellious angel, was cast out of 
Heaven. The Bible indicates in Isaiah 14:12-16, that this 
caused a great upheaval in the earth. 

Cities are not usually built on mountains but there are a 
few exceptions to this rule. Monterey, Mexico, a beautiful 
city of about three hundred thousand inhabitants, is located 
on the top of a high mountain. I drove up this mountain one 
night during a fierce storm on the way from Laredo, Texas. 
The lightning was playing all over the mountain and some- 
thing I did not understand was that the streaks of lightning 
were horizontal rather than perpendicular. 

During this trip, something happened the day we returned 
to Laredo, that concerned us very much. When we reached 
Texas we read in the newspaper that robbers held up North 
Carolina's Senator Robert Reynolds in his trailer, on the 
same road we traveled, and robbed him of money and other 
things. I also read that the Mexican government rounded up 

53 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

the robbers, obtained confessions, and shot them at sunrise. 

Maybe we could learn a lesson from Mexico with regard 
to bank robbers. I believe that something more effective than 
our present methods should be tried. Armed robbery is a ter- 
rible practice and one to which quick and severe punishment 
should be applied. 

La Paz, Bolivia, is the highest capital in the world. The 
elevation is more than 12,000 feet and although it is a tropical 
country, the nights are so cold in La Paz that sometimes 
overcoats are worn. 

I have been especially interested in Bolivia, because my 
cousin, Dr. Roland Egger, of the University of Virginia, and 
an executive of the Ford Foundation, was advisor to the 
president of Bolivia during World War II. 

Every time I go down Marietta Street in Atlanta, I admire 
the huge statue of the great Henry Grady, a product of the 
north Georgia mountains. The story is told of how humble 
Mr. Grady was when he had achieved fame. He was a great 
lawyer, jurist and statesman, but one day he remembered his 
mother, and realizing he owed so much to her and wanting 
to stay humble and worthy he went home for a few days vaca- 
tion and asked her to say the same prayer she used to say for 
him and tuck him away in his bed as she used to do. It takes 
a big man to do that. 

I also recall an outstanding lawyer-preacher, Dr. Caleb 
Ridley, of Atlanta. He was born and reared in the north 
Georgia mountains. Dr. Ridley's mother was an Indian and 
I heard Dr. Ridley in 1914, tell about her only visit to Atlan- 
ta. He said he begged her to come to visit him and sent her a 



54 



The Thread of My Life 

railway ticket. He wanted her to stay a long time but after 
a week or two she became very homesick and he had to put 
her on the train for the return to her mountain home. He 
said he put her on the train and pushed back the old slat- 
bonnet and kissed her. Then he went to the top of the stair- 
way overlooking the great Atlanta Terminal sheds as her 
train pulled out. To use his own words: "I found myself 
a-crying— I was a-crying for my Ma." 

I suppose most every one in the South has heard of Dr. 
Pierce Harris, pastor of the great First Methodist Church of 
Atlanta. He is a product of the hills. He is one of the South's 
most outstanding preachers— in fact, I doubt if there is an- 
other preacher in the country more popular as an after-dinner 
speaker. Mrs. Thornburg and I had frequently heard of this 
man but when he was to speak in our town or vicinity, we 
were always away. So while in Atlanta recently we went on 
Sunday night to hear him and the great organ which is one 
of the South's largest and best. He spoke that night on Chris- 
tian Education. A large crowd of students from Georgia Tech 
and the many other Atlanta colleges was present. 

He told about a mountaineer who brought his son down 
to enter Young-Harris College. The old mountaineer asked 
the president what he proposed to teach him. The college 
president, realizing he wanted a specific answer, told the old 
man he would teach him arithmetic, algebra and trigonom- 
etry. The mountaineer asked what that last name was. When 
the president repeated "trigonometry," the mountaineer said, 
"That's it— give him plenty of that for he's the poorest shot 
in our family." 



55 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

Before we leave the Peach State or Cracker State I think 
we should mention Dr. Crawford Long and Ty Cobb, both 
of whom came from the hills of north Georgia. Dr. Long was 
from Danielsville and Mr. Cobb from Royston. Dr. Long, of 
course, was the discoverer of anesthesia and the great Craw- 
ford Long Memorial Hospital, in the heart of Atlanta, has 
been erected to his memory. 

Ty Cobb, of course, was the famous baseball player and 
recently gave to the town of Royston, Georgia the beautiful 
Ty Cobb Memorial Hospital. 

Before closing this chapter, I must refer to the great 
preacher of Western North Carolina, Dr. George W. Truett. 
We have visited his birthplace at Hayesville, North Carolina 
several times. Our good friend, Mr. John Carrier, formerly of 
Gastonia, now runs a big hickory broom splint factory in this 
town and he and his wife live at Andrews, North Carolina, 
nearby where Mrs. Carrier teaches music. 

About the year 1870 a "protracted meeting" was held in 
Hayesville. During the meeting a small boy by the name of 
George Truett went forward and made a profession and 
joined the church. He was the only convert in the meeting 
and hence it was considered a failure. This boy's parents were 
very religious and his mother had a spot at the spring by the 
foot of the mountain where she went daily to pray. The boy 
grew up, attended high school and college and then founded 
a school and taught at Hiwassee, North Carolina. 

He attended the seminary and became a great preacher. 
Early in his ministry he went to Texas and helped to build 

56 



The Thread of My Life 

Baylor University at Waco and the Baptist Memorial Hos- 
pital at Dallas, both of which are memorials to him. His 
greatest work was as pastor of what must certainly be one of 
the world's largest churches — the First Baptist Church of 
Dallas, with 12,000 members. Before Dr. Truett passed away 
a few years ago, he saw his church grow to approximately 
10,000 members with 7,000 to 8,000 regularly in attendance 
at the Sabbath school. The educational plant covers a city 
block and is eight stories high. Dr. Truett was a very popular 
speaker and spoke throughout the United States and foreign 
countries. He was pastor of the First Baptist Church at Dallas 
for nearly fifty years and also served as president of the South- 
ern Baptist Convention and the Baptist World Alliance. 



57 



X here is no way of knowing what the situation on * 'segre- 
gation" will be eventually, or even when this book is pub- 
lished, but at present there is a great deal being written on 
the subject and unfortunately too much of it is for the sake 
of making a glamorous story rather than a correct presenta- 
tion of facts. 

In 1915 while living in Atlanta, I heard Dr. Booker T. 
Washington, then president of Tuskegee College. He was 
invited to speak there at a great symposium composed of 
leaders from religious, educational and industrial circles 
throughout the country. Dr. Washington was a very learned 
Christian gentleman and his words were well chosen and well 
received. He said his problems were not with the good white 
people, as they were most generous and kind to him, but with 
some of his own race and outsiders who did not understand 
the situation in the South. He said when he went to Tuskegee 
he had to straighten out some things with some members of 
his faculty from the North who did not understand the rela- 
tionship between the white and colored people in the South. 
He said he told his faculty and the student body they must 



CHAPTER VI 



THE NEGRO AND THE SOUTH 




59 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

understand and appreciate the fact that what they had, what- 
ever progress they had made and hoped to make in the future, 
had not, and would not, come from the government or from 
people in other sections of the country, but from the good 
white people in the South who really have their best interests 
at heart. He said he told them that, furthermore, the gifts and 
help from the white people in the South would be in propor- 
tion to their humility, their faithfulness and their willingness 
to prove themselves worthy. The colored people in the big 
audience applauded Dr. Washington's remarks as vigorously 
as the white folks did. 

In 1918, I was having dinner one evening with a group of 
officers from my army outfit in New York City. The matter 
of the white and colored people was mentioned and Lieu- 
tenant Whalen from Boston, who was always one of the 
broadest-minded Yankees I have ever known, spoke up and 
said, "My hat's off to the white people in the South. I have 
visited in the South and I know the situation. I will not say 
'their problem,' as they have none. The white people and the 
Negroes in the South get along better than any folks I know, 
and I only wish that my neighbors and I in Boston, and par- 
ticularly the white people and the colored people in other 
sections of the country, got along as peacefully as they do in 
the South." He went on to say that if the South were left 
alone, they would continue to advance the colored people as 
rapidly as the colored people were capable of moving. He 
said he based his remarks on what he had seen and heard in 
the South and especially on the fact that the South was the 
most Anglo-Saxon section of the country, and being predom- 

60 



The Thread of My Life 

inantly Christian, would settle their problems as they arose, 
in the Christian spirit. He stated further that it was just as 
wrong for other sections of the country to interfere, or for the 
federal government to legislate against states' rights and sec- 
tional situations as it was for a distant neighbor or for society 
as a whole to come into a domestic situation where their real 
interest and knowledge was limited and their services were 
not needed or appreciated. His idea, of course, was that a 
household must necessarily "set its own house in order." 

What Lieutenant Whalen evidently had in mind was that 
the South, possessing the knowledge, and being predominant- 
ly Christian, could and would handle its problems much 
better than could any one else, notwithstanding the opinions 
of the Supreme Court to the contrary. 

Of course, some mistakes have been made by both races on 
the subject, but in all large bodies there is always a small 
minority who allow themselves to do or say indiscreet things. 
This has happened in both the North and the South and if 
one in some isolated case has been the "pot" then the other 
has been the "kettle." 

Governor Griffin's action in Georgia, in proposing to dis- 
allow Georgia Tech to play Pittsburgh a game of football 
because the Pittsburgh team was not segregated, backfired on 
him. However, I think it should be pointed out that it was 
not so much a matter of a colored person being on the Pitts- 
burgh team as the possibility of some accident happening to 
the colored boy or to one of his white opponents that might 
cause ill feeling and result in criticism, in the mind of Gov- 
ernor Griffin. I was in Georgia at that time and I got the 

61 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

impression that the governor was ill-advised, and when he saw 
that sentiment was strongly against his position, he reversed 
his decision in the matter. 

Of course, precious few people in the South feel that 
schools and churches should be non-segregated. The Negroes 
do not want it any more than the white people. A leading 
colored Methodist Bishop recently so expressed himself on 
the subject. 

Dr. Billy Graham states that his recent integrated meetings 
in the United States were attended by only about ten percent 
as many Negroes as former segregated meetings. When he 
made inquiry among the Negroes as to the reason, they stated 
they did not feel comfortable sitting with the white people 
and much preferred to sit separately. 

I recall several years ago, I was invited to speak to a con- 
vention of colored people at the A. M. E. Zion Methodist 
Church in Gastonia. When presented by the pastor, I ad- 
dressed him as Pastor. Then I addressed Mac Longshore as 
Chairman, and then I looked down to a very elderly and 
beloved colored man who had served one of the leading banks 
in Gastonia for almost half a century, and addressed him as 
"Uncle John Good." The large congregation of colored peo- 
ple laughed heartily and expressed their appreciation by say- 
ing, "Amen." From that point on I had the rapt attention of 
all. The point is, the colored people in the South are not mis- 
treated, but protected and encouraged. They appreciate their 
white friends, who, they feel, have their interests at heart, and 
respond in kind. 

In concluding this chapter on the white and colored peo- 



62 



The Thread of My Life 

pie, I wish to relate two things that recently happened in 
Gastonia and Charlotte that illustrate quite well how the 
races get along in the South when they are not wrongfully 
and unduly advised and influenced by outside forces. 

When the Union National Bank of Charlotte "broke dirt" 
for the erection of a large building, it was not the bank presi- 
dent, chairman of the board of directors, or any other noted 
official or person, but the old colored janitor who had served 
the bank for a long span of years, who was awarded the honor 
of shoveling the first spade of dirt. 

Several years ago, a fine, cultured, and refined Gastonia 
colored woman whose name is well and favorably known in 
Gastonia, was called upon by two strange men who "wanted 
to sell her books." They spoke to her of how "the colored 
people were mistreated," as they put it, in Gastonia. She soon 
discovered they had a sinister motive, so she opened the door 
and respectfully asked them to withdraw. As they left, she 
told them she did not wish to be disrespectful, but that she 
suspected their motives and that if the different races and 
colors got along in other sections of the country and the world 
as well as the good white people and the colored people did 
in the South, that everybody could be happy. 

The writer has lived in the North and also traveled exten- 
sively through the North on various occasions during the past 
forty years, and can say that the situation with reference to 
white people and Negroes is entirely different in the North 
and South; hence, cannot be treated the same. A large per- 
centage of the population in the South is colored. They were 
brought from slavery to free citizenship. Before the Civil War 



63 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

the South had already freed a large number of slaves and had, 
in effect, a program for gradually freeing the others; hence, 
this was not the issue in the War Between the States. 

As free citizens, Negroes have been encouraged and helped 
to acquire property. Churches and schools have been built 
for them by the white people. The schools compare favorably 
with those for white people, and, in many instances, are 
superior; as they are new with modern facilities. Mr. Harri- 
man, and others who refer to the colored people in the South 
as down-trodden and ill-treated are greatly mistaken. Go into 
almost any colored community in the South and they will 
tell you that the white people are their best friends. This 
friendship stems from the Christian principle in which the 
South excels, the spirit of which is voluntary and can never 
be legislated. 

Mixed churches and schools for white and colored in the 
South are definitely against the tradition and desire of both 
races. The writer, therefore, feels that the Supreme Court's 
decision of 1954 was untimely, uncalled for, unnecessary and 
unfortunate and will hurt rather than help conditions, if it 
is not repealed. In fact, I believe that any fairminded citizen, 
among either or both races in the South, will tell you that its 
effects have been detrimental to both races by disturbing the 
fine relationship that has heretofore obtained. For instance, 
a pastor of one of the largest white churches, whose name is 
well and most favorably known in North Carolina, recently 
said to me that in his opinion the Supreme Court decision 
had set back the fine relations between the races in the South 
fifty years. Many have asked why the Supreme Court handed 

6 4 



The Thread of My Life 

down this unfortunate decision. Well, your guess may be as 
good as mine, but in the first place, I feel safe in saying that 
the court did not realize that its decision was so far-reaching 
and in the wrong direction. 

I feel, also, that they took too seriously the pressure from 
a few ill-informed and insincere radical groups, and did not 
realize the decision would bring about such serious and un- 
pleasant repercussions. 

In 1957 The Gastonia Gazette published an article written 
by David Lee, Negro publisher of Newark, New Jersey, which 
sets forth the cordial relation existing between the white and 
colored people in the South as follows: 

"Writers from throughout the world have visited the South 
during the last 12 months to get a close-up glimpse of the so- 
called race issue. The large publications in our country have 
sent their best staff reporters into the various Southern states, 
but not one writer has gone to the core of this issue, and pre- 
sented a truthful, factual, intelligent analysis. 

"Practically every article has dealt with the social aspect, 
the feelings and reactions of Negro and white people of the 
region covered. The mixing of races or resistance to it, has 
been the dominant theme. 

"There is more to the Negro and white relationship in the 
South than Jim Crowism, than political and social equality 
or the mixing of Negro and white kids in the same classroom. 
Nothing has been said about the economic opportunities that 
Negroes enjoy, or the businesses which they own, the security 
which they enjoy, the desire on the part of most Southerners 
to help worthy and enterprising Negroes to get ahead. 



65 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

"No one seems to be concerned about the best in the South, 
but only with the worst. Not one writer has come up with 
the fact that a Negro is a clerk in a white drug store in Rose- 
dale, Mississippi, and that two Negro sharecroppers have 
$10,000 each on deposit at the Valley Bank in Rosedale. 

"None have pointed out that Negro mechanics work at the 
Ford and Buick garages in Cleveland, Mississippi, and enjoy 
the same privileges and pay scale of white employees. 

"Or that Negro customers completely take over the two 
banks in Port Gibson, Mississippi, and get more courteous 
consideration than do the white customers. 

"Not one writer has pointed out that Mississippi has thou- 
sands of top notch Negro businesses, and that Negro progress 
is keeping pace with that in other states. 

"None have pointed out that the Negro-owned Safe Bus 
Company in Winston-Salem, N. C, is the largest Negro bus 
company in the world; that Negroes in North Carolina own 
700,000 acres of farm land and that there are more Negro 
farmers in the state than any other state in the nation. 

"North Carolina is the only state in the nation that employs 
Negro specialists in agriculture extension work. There is a 
state staff of 16. There are 49 county agents, 22 assistant 
agents, and 51 home agents with 10 assistants. That in the 
state there are 41 farm managers who manage farms for white 
owners. 

"A lot has been written about integration in the schools of 
the state. However, the fact that the Negro schools, in most 
instances are better than the white, has not been mentioned, 
or that Negro teachers receive higher pay than white teachers. 

66 



The Thread of My Life 

"For instance, in Warrenton, North Carolina, John Gra- 
ham, the white high school principal, gets $5,500 a year. John 
Hawkins, the Negro high school principal, gets $7,085 a year. 
In the county are 66 white teachers who draw an average of 
$351.43 per month. There are 149 Negro teachers who draw 
an average of $352.25 per month. 

"The Negro in North Carolina eats better, dresses better, 
lives better and enjoys more individual respect from white 
people than does his Northern, Eastern and Western counter- 
part. 

"Much is being written at present about civil rights legisla- 
tion and opposition to its passage by Southerners in the 
House and Senate. Those not familiar with the facts will get 
the impression that the Southern bloc is against the Negro. 
Nothing is farther from the truth. These Southerners have 
done more, and will do more for the Negro than will those 
from other sections. 

"For instance, Congressman Boykin of Alabama sent a 
Negro to law school, so has Congressman L. Mendel Rivers 
of South Carolina. Congressman Pilcher of Georgia spent 
over $6,000 in cash to defend Lt. Saunders, a Negro youth 
from his home town. Senator Talmadge has Negroes running 
his farm and so has Senator Eastland. 

"There is not one Southerner in Congress who was not 
either nursed by a Negro or who has Negro servants back 
home. The so-called civil rights advocates cannot lay claim to 
the above facts. And all of them combined have not done as 
much for the Negro as has anyone mentioned here. 

"The intelligent Southern Negro is not concerned about 



67 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

what Southerners say against him, he is concerned what they 
do for him, and what they do speaks louder than what they 
say. 

"The South abounds in stories of Negro success and prog- 
ress, and in every story white people have made a substantial 
contribution, and those writers who invaded the South for 
the real story, missed it by a wide margin. For every instance 
of injustice, exploitation and denial of constitutional guaran- 
tees, they could have found ten of opportunity and progress. 
They could have placed the facts in focus so that the world 
could have received a clear picture of conditions. What an 
opportunity they missed." 



68 



CHAPTER VII 

WE TOUR THE SOUTHWEST 



Friday morning, June 29, 1956, Mrs. Thornburg (Lou) and 
I left our home in Gastonia, for a three-week vacation in the 
Southwest. I have been through this country many times on 
my business travels but had not been west of the Mississippi 
River for several years and was anxious to see this country 
again and also to have my wife with me as she had never been 
farther west than Alabama. We first went to Atlanta, Georgia 
and spent the week-end. 

On Monday we left for New Orleans via Montgomery and 
Mobile. We stopped at the old State Capitol in Montgomery. 
This building, which is now the Alabama State Capitol, 
served as the first capitol of the Confederacy. The building 
is spacious, well built, and has been well preserved. Its beau- 
tiful winding staircases and chambers make it one of the 
showplaces in the South. Alabama is a very beautiful state 
and many of its towns and rivers are Indian names such as 
Opelika, Tuskegee, Eufaula, Tuscaloosa, Tombigbee, Chat- 
tahoochee, Coosa, and Tallapoosa. In fact, Alabama is an 
Indian word meaning, "Here we rest." 

We arrived in Mobile late in the afternoon and spent the 
night at the Cawthon Hotel. We arrived at New Orleans at 



6 9 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

noon July 3, 1956 and after checking in at the famous old 
Monteleon Hotel in the heart of the Vieux Carre, we went to 
the Gumbo Shop on St. Peter Street for a fish gumbo lunch. 
In the afternoon we saw what I consider the three most inter- 
esting things outside of the French Quarter, for less than one 
dollar. We took a street car ride down Canal Street to Lake 
Pontchartrain and back. This is one of the widest and most 
glamorous streets in all the world— four street car tracks in 
the center, four car lanes on each side and a very wide side- 
walk on each side. Street car and bus rides are only seven 
cents each and ferry rides five cents each, so you can still buy 
a "big package" in New Orleans for a nickel. 

We then took the ferry across the "old Mississippi" to 
Gretna. This gives you a view of the docks and steamers, and 
also a good view of the New Orleans skyline. On our return 
to Canal Street we caught a bus to Audubon Park. This is 
one of the largest, most famous and interesting parks in 
America and named, of course, for America's foremost orni- 
thologist, John James Audubon. One could spend a whole 
day in this immense park and then not see all the birds and 
animals. 

It would be impossible to mention here all the points of 
interest in New Orleans, such as St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson 
Square, The Cabildo, Old French Market, etc. In fact, the 
Tourist Association lists 125 major points of interest. Of 
course, we had dinner at Antoine's and breakfast at Bren- 
nan's. To illustrate just one of New Orleans' major indus- 
tries, I might mention that sixty steamship companies operate 
from there. New Orleans advertises itself as "America's most 



7° 



The Thread of My Life 

interesting city." Millions of Americans find that the claim is 
well founded. 

We left New Orleans over the beautiful lake route No. 61 
for Baton Rouge. There we visited the spot in the lobby of 
the skyscraper Capitol where the famous Huey Long was 
slain. We also visited the Louisiana State University of which 
our pastor, Dr. V. Ward Barr, is an alumnus. 

From Baton Rouge we traveled west through the beautiful 
Evangeline Country via St. Charles, Louisiana, to Galveston, 
Texas. The approach from Orange, Texas to Galveston is 
very interesting as you drive in on the ferry about five miles 
north of Galveston, and land near the beach. In fact, the 
beach and city of Galveston are near together, as the island is 
only about one mile wide but thirty miles long. Some of the 
old residents there still remember the great flood of 1900 
when 5,000 people and many thousands of cattle and stock, 
etc. were swept into the Galveston Bay by a 120 mile-an-hour 
hurricane from the Gulf. This was one of the greatest dis- 
asters in our history. Later the federal government built a 
concrete wall 17 feet high, 16 feet thick and seven and a half 
miles long. They then pumped in 20 million tons of sand 
from the sea and elevated the city about 15 feet, thereby mak- 
ing one of the finest beaches and harbors in America. 

We stayed at the big Buccaneer Hotel on the beach and 
took a swim in the Gulf while the fish serenaded us by com- 
ing out in large numbers and size and jumping five or six 
feet out of the water. We had never seen the fish play like 
this before— and this is not a "fish story," 

The next day we drove by way of Corpus Christi to Laredo 



7i 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

on the Mexican border. Corpus Christi is a beautiful city of 
about 150,000 people and the home of the Howard Butt 
Grocery Company which has dozens of large warehouses and 
about one hundred large supermarkets and dominates the 
wholesale and retail grocery business in south Texas. Mrs. 
Thornburg and I had a most pleasant visit with Howard 
Butt, Jr., who is an international figure in the religious world 
as he, like Mr. R. G. LeTourneau, flies all over the United 
States and foreign countries and speaks to large groups. At 
the request of Dr. Billy Graham, he flew to Scotland in 1955 
and spent several weeks with him on the speaking tour 
through that country after the big Graham crusade in Lon- 
don. I asked him how he could spend so much time away 
from his business and he replied: "Well God is our partner 
and I consult with Him about every trip and if He wants me 
to go surely He will look after the business while I am away." 

At Laredo we went across the border for dinner at the 
Cadillac Cafe in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. On my first visit 
across the border about 25 years ago these border towns were 
small and resembled the towns of the old Wild West. In fact, 
someone has said that in those days everything across the 
border was "F.O.B.— flies on bread and flies on butter." To- 
day Nuevo Laredo and Laredo have each about 75,000 peo- 
ple, and even in Laredo, about 75 percent are Mexican. This 
percentage holds in San Antonio and all south Texas. No 
wonder Santa Anna tried so hard to hold on to this country! 

From Laredo we went to San Antonio, where we spent the 
week end with my cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Linwood Egger. Mr. 
Egger is head of the Egger Grocery Company, a brokerage 

7 2 



The Thread of My Life 

concern. Our cousins took us to "La Fonda"— an eating-place 
where Mexican food is at its best. Among the points of inter- 
est they took us to see was the famous Sunken Gardens, in 
Breckenridge Park. It is wonderful to stand on the top and 
look into this Sunken Garden at night with the spraying 
fountains streaming amid the banks and islands of flowers and 
shrubbery. We also went to Las Vegas Village which is a 
replica of the original San Antonio where thousands of young 
Mexican girls and boys dressed in their traditional beautiful 
costumes were celebrating a fiesta. 

Then, of course, we went to the Alamo where we gained a 
new and more profound impression of Davey Crockett— 
"king of the wild frontier." He is featured in the Alamo and 
greatly beloved by Texans and this means the Mexicans as 
well, as they are proud to be American citizens. After all they 
are as much American as we are, and they have lived longer 
in Texas. 

From there we took a walking tour on the banks of the 
beautiful San Antonio River which runs through the heart 
of the city. It is completely decorated and landscaped from 
the street to the water's edge. This river rises just a few miles 
north of the city and emerges as a huge body of clear water 
out of a rock somewhat like Silver Springs at Ocala, Florida. 

As we left the beautiful city, now more than 500,000 in 
population, we found ourselves humming the song "San 
Antonio." 

On our way north we stopped at Austin, the capital, to see 
the beautiful University Presbyterian Church where our good 
friend Dr. Moffett, present pastor of First Presbyterian 



73 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

Church at Gastonia, formerly served as pastor. We bypassed 
Waco and Temple but we could see the skylines in the dis- 
tance. As we passed the little city of Temple we remembered 
that President Theodore Roosevelt's train, while on an accel- 
erated itinerary through Texas, was stopped there. Teddy was 
irritated but when he rushed to the platform he was advised 
by the mayor that it was according to a city law. Thereupon 
President Roosevelt, in his good natured style, addressed the 
large crowd and thanked them for the splendid reception. 

When we reached Dallas, we had a warm welcome. It was 
110 degrees, the hottest for the season there since 1930. We 
tucked into an air conditioned hotel and after dinner at 
the Adolphus Hotel we attended church, it being Sunday 
evening. We, of course, went to the First Baptist Church, 
made famous by the 50 year ministry of the late Dr. George 
W. Truitt, as mentioned earlier. The church sanctuary, 
which holds approximately 5,000, was filled that Sunday 
night. Dr. Criswell, the pastor, said Christian people were 
sometimes criticized as being narrow, and he agreed that they 
were. Just as narrow as the First National Bank, because in 
exchange for a $20.00 bill, they give only $20.00 in change. 
Dr. Criswell said if the bank was narrow enough to hew to 
the line so should God's people. 

Dallas is a city of about 600,000 population, and is more 
compact than Houston which has about one million and is 
the South's largest. 

Monday morning we went to the beautiful Neiman Marcus 
store, mostly to see the oil millionaire's shop. Lou found one 
bargain which was a four dollar handkerchief reduced to two 



74 



The Thread of My Life 

dollars, so she bought it. I think they might have left the 
original tag on as she was determined anyway to buy some- 
thing at this beautiful store which outfits so many Hollywood 
stars. 

Monday we drove to the famous old town of Sulphur 
Springs, Texas and had lunch at the Sellers Cafeteria which 
is a Duncan Hines-recommended place and serves delicious 
food. Earlv in the afternoon we arrived at the beautiful little 
citv of Paris, just ten miles from the Oklahoma line. This was 
really our destination, as we had gone primarily to visit my 
beloved cousins. Mrs. Dora Egger and Mrs. Belle Hogan, in 
Paris. These precious girls, with Mrs. Hogan's children. Mr. 
and Mrs. Morris Cass, showed us a fine time for four days. 
Thev took us into Oklahoma and 15 miles west of Paris to 
their big ranch to let the cattle see us. Which reminds me of 
the story of the Canadian who took his wife and 15 children 
down to Quebec to see the world's largest bull moose. When 
the manager saw his big family he returned his money and 
said, "just pass in free of charge for it is more important that 
the moose see your family than for you to see my show." 

We left Texas through the oil fields around Kilgore and 
Longview and came to Shreveport. Louisiana, accompanied 
by Cousin Dora Egger. We spent a night with her son and 
my cousins. Mr. and Mrs. Harmon Egger. Harmon is general 
superintendent of the United Gas & Pipe Line Company. He 
and his lovelv wife. Viva, were wonderful hosts and enter- 
tained us royally with a big barbecue chicken dinner on the 
lawn in their landscaped garden which is one of the most 
beautiful we had ever seen. 

75 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

From Shreveport we came by Monroe, Louisiana and had 
lunch at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and on to Meridian for the 
night where we had dinner at the Wildeman Restaurant. 
This too is a Duncan Hines recommended place and well 
deserves the recognition. This reminds me of a restaurant I 
heard of recently which carries a large sign reading "Not 
recommended by Duncan Hines." They have on the walls of 
the spacious dining rooms the pictures of famous people who 
have eaten there during the past one hundred years. The next 
day we traveled to Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Chattanooga 
and spent the night at the Cherokee Hotel in Cleveland, Ten- 
nessee. This town is the home of the Hardwick Woolen Mills, 
which is one of the largest in the world. 

From this point we went to Knoxville, Tennessee, where 
we had lunch with my niece, Mrs. Harry Carswell. Her hus- 
band, Rev. Harry Carswell, is assistant pastor of the Broad- 
way Baptist Church in Knoxville. In the afternoon we drove 
through Asheville to our summer home at Ridgecrest, North 
Carolina, and spent the night with our grandchildren, Emily 
and Andy, and Mr. and Mrs. John Romanstine, who were 
spending their vacation there. 

As we approached our home the next day we realized why 
home is mentioned and discussed about twenty-five times in 
the Bible. Heaven is referred to about fifty times in the Bible 
so you see home is the next best place. 

On the trip we traveled 3,500 miles through ten different 
states. The combined population of the cities we visited is 
about ten million and the population of the area we circled 
on the trip is about thirty-five million. One thousand miles of 

7 6 



The Thread of My Life 

the distance traveled was in Texas but, of course, Texas is a 
big state. It will take you as long to travel across some Texas 
counties as it will to travel across some of the states. 

All the states in the Union are fine and each has something 
for which its people are proud, but, of course, we are partial 
to our own— "The Old North State"— North Carolina, and 
so as we re-entered her, we found ourselves singing: 

"Carolina, Carolina, Heaven's blessings attend her. 
While we live we will cherish, protect and defend her." 



77 



TTBTTBirBTrsinmrr^ 



A his chapter is devoted to Western North Carolina Reli- 
gious Assemblies because those who have visited or attended 
any of these assemblies will be interested, and those who have 
not, will find it to be informational, and I trust, interesting 
also. Among the noteworthy things in North Carolina are 
these delightful and inspiring assemblies. 

The Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly, where I have a sum- 
mer home, is located two miles east of Black Mountain, and 
is open during June, July, and August. In these three 
months about 35,000 delegates representing several thousand 
churches in the Southern Baptist Convention attend confer- 
ences and inspiring programs on Sunday Schools and the 
various other auxiliaries of the Baptist denomination, in 
weekly or bi-weekly relays. There is also a boys camp and a 
girls camp here. 

The purpose of the assemblies is to inform and inspire 
members in church activities — sponsoring as they do the 
whole work of the church. They are held in summer, since 
this is the vacation season, and in the mountains, because it 
is so delightfully cool. In the mountains of western North 



CHAPTER VIII 



RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLIES 




79 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

Carolina you usually have to sleep under a sheet, a spread and 
a blanket during the summer months. This, of course, con- 
tributes to sound sleep and a good appetite. Ridgecrest has a 
population of about 1,000 during the winter months but 
during the summer or assembly season is a thriving center of 
about 5,000. Not only are approximately 3,000 delegates to 
the various assembly conferences there, but many Baptists 
with summer homes there, spend the summer. 

Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly is over fifty years old. It 
started in a very small way but has grown tremendously in 
size and popularity. The story is told of one of the first meet- 
ings there, attended by a few delegates and held in a small 
brush arbor. Dr. Bernard Spillman, one of the pioneers of 
Sunday School work in the South was the speaker. A Dr. 
Jones, chairman of the meeting, very elaborately introduced 
Dr. Spillman, who was a large man weighing almost 300 
pounds. He had bowed and concluded, "I present to you the 
great Dr. Spillman." As Dr. Spillman mounted the impro- 
vised platform it collapsed and Dr. Spillman came rolling 
down like a barrel. He picked himself up with considerable 
embarrassment to all and said, ' 'Thanks Dr. Jones, but if you 
had not built me up so high, I would not have fallen so low." 

The Southern Presbyterian Assembly known as Montreat 
is also located two miles from Black Mountain, but to the 
north. For more than half a century Montreat has been the 
Mecca of the Presbyterians. It is one of the most beautiful 
places in Western North Carolina and is surrounded by 
mountains— being only ten miles from Mount Mitchell, the 



8o 



The Thread of My Life 

highest peak east of the Rockies. Through the center of the 
grounds runs a beautiful stream of cold, clear water with 
many rock shoals and between these many small lakes of clear 
water with solid granite bottoms. In the center of the grounds 
there is a beautiful lake with a boat house and other facilities 
for water recreation. 

The buildings at Montreat are very solid — being con- 
structed of native stone. The large central hotel is one of the 
finest and most comfortable in the South. It is open the year 
round and serves delicious meals in the spacious dining room. 

The many other large buildings, including the circular 
auditorium, are constructed of stone, and during the fall, 
winter, and spring, are occupied by Montreat College. There 
are several hundred lovely homes and cottages, for on the 
grounds many Presbyterians from all over the South spend 
the summer. One of the most beautiful of these homes is 
occupied by Dr. Billy Graham and his family as their perma- 
nent home. 

The program at Montreat is somewhat similar to the Ridge- 
crest and other Religious Assembly programs, and is attended 
by thousands of Presbyterian leaders during June, July, and 
August. 

The town of Black Mountain has for about one hundred 
years been known as a summer resort. It is ideally located, 
having good railroad and highway facilities and being only 
fourteen miles from Asheville and ten miles from the Blue 
Ridge Parkway. Of course, it is delightfully cool all summer 
and entirely "off bounds" for mosquitoes or other pests. 

81 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

Among the early settlers were the Count and Countess Gus- 
tavenny of France, who came to America about the middle of 
the nineteenth century. Mr. Gustavenny was an architect and 
designed the original Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York 
City and other important buildings in this country. During 
the latter part of the century he retired and built a castle at 
the edge of Black Mountain. The Christian denomination 
bought this old castle several years ago and added other build- 
ings and now use it as their summer assembly. The Blue 
Ridge YMCA Assembly is also located two miles southwest 
of the town. 

The Blue Ridge Assembly is open all summer for YMCA 
conferences, industrial conferences, public relations, and 
other conferences. Plans are now underway to rebuild the 
large center building here at a cost of more than a half mil- 
lion dollars. 

Black Mountain is thus surrounded by four large Assem- 
blies, namely, Ridgecrest Baptist, Montreat Presbyterian, the 
Christian, and the YMCA. 

My interest in these assemblies has become more intensi- 
fied through recent years by the fact that I have a cottage at 
Ridgecrest. I purchased and remodeled an old house built, I 
am told, by the parents of the famous missionaries to China, 
Wade and Attie Bostic, about 60 years ago. There are, on the 
place, two large apple trees about that age. One is an "early 
harvest apple" and the other a "late harvest apple," hence 
the two supply apples from June to November and "believe 
it or not" at 60 years of age they still produce about fifteen 
bushels per tree each year. 

82 



The Thread of My Life 

To any one desiring complete rest, I heartily recommend 
the Black Mountain community, for I know from experience 
that it is possible and in fact delightful to "sleep around the 
clock" there. 

The Junaluska Methodist Conference is located at Lake 
Junaluska about 15 miles west of Asheville and near the 
towns of Canton and Waynesville. This location in some 
respects excels any of the Western North Carolina Assemblies. 
It is located on top of a small table mountain and surrounded 
by larger ones. 

The principal buildings are built around Lake Junaluska 
which is very large and most beautiful. This large assembly is 
attended by thousands of Methodists each summer and an 
informative and inspirational program under the direction 
of the Methodist Church leaders is featured. Many members 
of the great church body have summer homes there and quite 
a few retired Methodist ministers live there the year round. 

The World Methodist Conference was held at Junaluska 
the last week in August and the first week in September, 1956, 
and was attended by delegates and representatives from ap- 
proximately forty nations. 

Hendersonville, North Carolina, 25 miles south of Ashe- 
ville on Route 25, is also quite a summer resort and a center 
for several religious assemblies. It might be said that Hender- 
sonville is in the summer what St. Petersburg, Florida, is in 
the winter. In fact, quite a few people spend their summers 
in Hendersonville and winters in Florida. The main street in 
the heart of the city is wide and very shady with many com- 
fortable benches for the benefit of guests. During the sum- 



83 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

mer, hundreds of people can be seen seated on these benches 
on Main Street every day and evening. 

There are four religious assemblies within a few miles of 
Hendersonville. 

Kanuga, the Episcopal Assembly, is located five miles from 
Hendersonville and is owned by the Dioceses of North Caro- 
lina and South Carolina. Kanuga is the largest Episcopal Sum- 
mer Conference in the United States and draws delegates 
from twenty-five Dioceses in various other states. Adult and 
youth conferences are held here each summer and there also 
are camps for boys and girls. 

When you say Bon Clarken the hats of all Associated Re- 
formed Presbyterians are off. This assembly is located at Flat 
Rock, North Carolina, a few miles from Hendersonville, and 
conducts conferences and programs for adults and young peo- 
ple during July and August. The season here is opened early 
in June with the several Synod Conferences of the Southeast 
and followed by various other inspiring programs. 

The North Carolina Baptists have a summer conference at 
Fruitland College campus a few miles from Hendersonville 
during June, July, and August, and also one at Fort Caswell 
on the ocean near Wilmington, North Carolina, with pro- 
grams similar to those at Ridgecrest. These two small confer- 
ences are for North Carolina Baptists only, and accommodate 
several thousands from North Carolina churches who cannot 
attend the Ridgecrest General Conference. 

The Lutheran Conference is located at Arden, North Caro- 
lina, which is only a few miles north of Hendersonville and 
is known by Lutherans as the Lutherage. My cousin, Dr. 



8 4 



The Thread of My Life 

Lewis Thornburg, is the manager of this conference and in 
collaboration with other leaders of the Southeastern Luther- 
ans, conducts conferences for adults and youths during the 
summer months. During one or two weeks the entire assem- 
bly is reserved for boy scouts. This conference, like several 
others, observes a special music week and ties in with the 
Transylvania Music Festival held at nearby Brevard each 
season. 



8j 



imnnrsinrBWirg^^ 



CHAPTER IX 

MY WORLD WAR I DIARY 



1" he termites almost beat me to this chapter. I had some 
records packed in the bottom of my old World War steamer 
trunk and stored in the basement where some water ran in 
during a recent flood and wet the bottom of the trunk. In 
going through the trunk I found one rusty penny and my 
service records. I do not know which is most valuable, the 
penny or the file, but think it will be of interest to record 
here some events that the younger people do not know about 
and that the older ones have possibly forgotten. 

Up until 1918 1 had an exemption as accountant and assist- 
ant manager of the Piedmont Cotton Mills in Atlanta as our 
production was entirely army duck. Eventually, however, 
all exemptions were cancelled including that of President 
Wilson's private secretary, so I began to try to ' 'break into 
the service." I went to the Federal Arsenal at Augusta and 
also to Camp Gordon near Atlanta but found no opening for 
volunteers. I then appealed to Mr. L. G. Whitney, chairman 
of the draft board in Atlanta, whom I knew personally and 
he assigned me to Georgia Tech where an officer's training 
school was being started. 

On reporting to Georgia Tech I was sent to a company in 

87 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

the Lowndes Building which was in charge of an old hard- 
boiled army officer by the name of Lieutenant Dawes. He 
was a relative of General Dawes. I asked the Lieutenant 
where my room was and he said, "Room, h — , you're 
in the army now. Go down to the big barn and get you a 
straw tick and fill it with straw and bring it up to the big 
hall in this building." I did not feel that I had a very cordial 
reception but it was my first lesson in getting tough. 

The training here was rough and intense. After a few weeks 
I was advanced to Corporal in charge of the post flag, and 
barracks inspector. A few weeks later I was advanced to Ser- 
geant and assigned to the office to help classify new recruits. 
The men came there from every walk of life, hence some did 
not fit into any particular class so the Lieutenant in charge 
told me to classify such as "C. of H." which he explained 
meant "care of horses" or "chamber maid in a livery stable." 

Being an office man, I liked the office job pretty well but 
was fearful that I was missing too much outside activities so 
I was allowed to spend two hours in the morning drilling 
with my company, two hours in the afternoon studying air- 
plane construction, and a course in French in the evening. 

In the airplane class our teacher was Professor Hineka— 
better known as "Uncle Hiney." We noticed he had a huge 
dried lobster under glass high up on the wall. He would 
never tell us why it was there but kept emphasizing the 
importance of keeping our hands and our bodies clear of the 
band saws. Finally one day a boy got careless and cut off his 
finger, then the old professor rang the big bell and called us 
all together and explained that the lobster on the wall was 



88 



The Thread of My Life 

the only animal that could grow another finger or limb if he 
lost one. 

These were hectic days. We were having many casualties 
overseas and our drill work hours were long and arduous. It 
is almost unbelievable to see the difference in the Georgia 
Tech area today as compared with what it was during my 
enlistment there. We used to go over in the fields to the 
north of the campus and "take over trenches." What was then 
fields, woods and gullies is now Georgia Tech facilities such 
as the Tech Radio Station WGST building and the huge 
Tech-Wood development. 

On the evening of August 7, 1918, the writer with four 
other members of a committee representing the Georgia 
Tech Training Detachment, arranged and held a farewell 
banquet honoring the officers and instructors at the Ansley 
Hotel. 

The next morning before daylight we boarded a train for 
Camp Joseph E. Johnston near Jacksonville, Florida. We 
arrived at this camp at two o'clock in the morning and were 
thrown into what they called a "bull pen." I think the place 
was pretty well named as we were a crowd of young bullies. 
We could probably be compared very well to the lower sec- 
tion of a double boiler— shooting off a lot of steam, and not 
knowing what was cooking above. One thing we found out 
the next day, however, was that we were "busted." We were 
no longer Sergeants, for in order to qualify for the Officers 
Training School, we had to start from scratch or as "privates 
in the rear rank." 

After a week or two drilling new recruits, I was called out 

8 9 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

for Officers Training School, but here a terrible thing hap- 
pened to me. They inadvertently transferred me into a com- 
pany that was leaving for overseas. The captain would not 
make any effort to straighten out the mistake as they were 
sending him men from various outfits, hence he felt sure they 
wanted me to go with him. My records showed my assign- 
ment so I rushed out a back door and to headquarters where 
they corrected the matter and sent for my baggage. 

The training school was rugged there at Camp Johnston. 
We attended classes and drill from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 
and then had class or study in the evening. 

The rainy season was on in Florida and it rained every day, 
which contributed to the flu then raging. My bunk mate on 
one side was Harold Shattuck who has since succeeded his 
father as vice president of Schraft's Candy Company, and on 
the other side was John Zerby whose father was an industri- 
alist in Philadelphia. 

We had a standing order to put our bedding out each 
morning to sun— and we'd come back in the late afternoon to 
find it damp or wet. Most of the boys came down with the 
flu, which had just come over from Spain. We had never 
heard of it before but we soon realized it was real, as most of 
us wound up in the infirmary and many in the morgue. 

One of the happiest moments of my life occurred one 
afternoon in November at five o'clock retreat; my name was 
called out with the order "front and center." After proceed- 
ing to the center and marching to the front I was handed this 
message from President Woodrow Wilson: "To all who shall 
see these presents, greetings: Know ye that reposing special 



90 



The Thread of My Life 

trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and 
abilities of Miles Oliver Thornburg, I do appoint him Second 
Lieutenant Q. M. C. in the U. S. Army." 

Another telegram followed from Washington requesting 
my immediate acceptance and directing that I proceed at 
once to New York City as assistant to the port supply officer. 

I was allowed 48 hours to reach New York, which afforded 
me a 24 hour stop-over in Atlanta with my family. While in 
Atlanta on the morning of November 12, 1918, we were 
awakened by a news boy yelling, "Read all about the arm- 
istice." 

It was good to be in New York City as I had never been 
there before, but I was greeted with sleet and snow which 
covered the city about all winter. There was one question in 
my mind, however: "Why was I sent to Florida for the sum- 
mer and to New York for the winter?" 

World War I was over, of course, when I reached New 
York, but its repercussions were continuing. I had a telegram 
from my brother Charlie, stating he had just returned from 
overseas and was at Camp Mills, Long Island. I went out to 
meet him and you can imagine my feelings when I found him 
gassed, with a broken back and frozen feet, and to make bad 
matters worse, his first child, whom he had not been priv- 
ileged to see, had died. 

General Pershing's first act after the Armistice on Novem- 
ber 15, 1918 was to congratulate the army and urge continued 
discipline. I quote from a Paris newspaper of that date: "Gen- 
eral Pershing today addressed the American soldiers in an 
order of the day, congratulating them on the splendid results 



91 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

of the victory achieved. The order urges the men now that 
they are on enemy territory or the freed soil of France to 
show themselves to be well disciplined, correct in their behav- 
ior and respectful of civil rights." 

President Wilson's sympathies were with the Belgians, 
realizing that they had suffered most and were the most inno- 
cent, so he on November 15, 1918, cabled King Albert: 
"Never has a national holiday occurred at a more auspicious 
moment, and never have felicitations been more heartfelt 
than those which it is my high privilege to tender to your 
Majesty on this day. When facing imminent destruction Bel- 
gium sacrificed herself and won for herself a place of honor 
among nations, a crown of glory imperishable though all else 
were lost. The danger is averted, the hour of victory come, 
and with it the promise of a new life, fuller, greater, nobler 
than has been known before. The blood of Belgium's heroic 
sons has not been shed in vain." 

Kaiser Bill fled to Holland where he sought asylum and 
started his wood chopping exercises; the German army offi- 
cers surrendered or were rounded up and held; and the offi- 
cers of the German fleet who had given the orders for the 
sinking of their ships, were taken to the British battleship 
Ramiles and held as prisoners. 

The surrender and signing of the Armistice terms was a 
bitter pill to the Germans and especially to the German High 
Command which was solely responsible for misleading the 
German people and for forcing them into war. 

The loss of life and the expense of World War I reached a 
staggering sum. A newspaper clipping from the New York 

92 



The Thread of My Life 

Times, dated 1919, shows the total loss of men to be 10,330,- 
000 for Germany and Austria alone with a total casualty list 
for all nations of approximately 15,000,000. The same paper 
showed the cost of the war for the year 1918, to be $9,572,- 
000,000. This would be comparable to about fifty billion dol- 
lars today. Also we might consider it in the light of normal 
costs of 1919, for it was about this year or in the upper teens 
that we had our first so called "Billion Dollar Congress." 
(One billion appropriated in one year.) There was a lot of 
criticism by the tax payers of the "Billion Dollar Congress." 
In 1957, this was about one week's payroll. 

The immediate postwar period was rough financially. 
Money was scarce and drastic curtailment seemed necessary. 
The army was reduced to 180,000 men. I recall how it affected 
our government overseas accounting office in New York City 
where approximately 90 percent were civilian employees. 
One day without warning we were ordered to "dismiss for the 
convenience of the Government" 65 percent of our employ- 
ees. My department was reduced from 60 to 20. It was a sad 
day when these notices were passed out. 

President Wilson made two trips to Europe in 1919 in the 
interest of a lasting peace. On February 15, 1919, he an- 
nounced to Congress and to the nation his famous League of 
Nations Covenant, which was followed by vigorous and pro- 
longed debate in Congress. 

It is interesting to note here Mutt and Jeff's reaction to the 
League of Nations discussion in 1919. Jeff asked Mutt, "What 
is all this League of Nations stuff? I've heard about the 
American and National Leagues but this League of Nations 



93 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

stuff is over my head." Mutt explained to Jeff that "all the 
great nations of the world are bonded together to guarantee 
everlasting peace— all for one and one for all." Jeff said he 
was against it. Mutt asked him if his reasons were political 
and Jeff replied, "No, my reasons are musical," and ex- 
plained, "It took me 42 years to learn to sing 'My Country 
'Tis of Thee;' now we will have to learn to sing 'Our Coun- 
tries 'Tis of Those.' " Mutt raised the window and dumped 
little Jeff out into the ash can. That is about what happened 
to the League of Nations. It was signed, along with the for- 
mal and final peace treaty, by the various nations while Mr. 
Wilson was in Paris in June, 1919, subject to the approval of 
the various nations. President Wilson returned to America 
and was met by a committee in New York City composed of 
Senator Champ Clark, Secretaries Daniels and Glass, Vice 
President Marshall and Secretaries Wilson, Baker and Lane. 
He received a great ovation from the populace, but a cold 
shoulder in Washington from many Republican Senators. A 
cartoon showed the White House swimming pool as the 
"Invitation to discuss League of Nations" with Mr. Wilson 
in the center of it saying to Republican Senators on the bank, 
"Come on in, the water's fine." But the Senators on the bank 
were tying knots in Mr. Wilson's clothes. 

Many who have read and studied the full text of the 
League of Nations feel it was the greatest document ever 
penned by the hand of man outside of the Bible. For instance, 
in the twentieth, twenty-first and twenty-second articles it 
provides for fair and humane conditions in all countries to 
which their commercial and industrial relations extend. It 



94 



The Thread of My Life 

provided for securing and maintaining freedom of transit for 
the commerce of all nations and placed under the control of 
the League all former treaties. But as fine as it was, it was not 
good enough for a majority of the congressmen and senators; 
hence it was defeated. This broke Mr. Wilson's heart and also 
disturbed millions of citizens, but it was done, and has 
resulted in the loss of millions in lives and billions in money. 
Possibly this was partly what General Pershing had in mind 
when he returned from Europe and made the statement that 
it would have to be done all over again in twenty-five years. 
Subsequent events proved that Pershing was correct, as he 
had it timed almost to the day. 

In August of 1919 we had cleared almost all accounting in 
the overseas offices then located at 34th Street and 8th Avenue 
in New York City. So Mr. Wilson sent me another message 
headed "To all who shall see these presents, greetings" and 
then continued by saying that I was honorably discharged 
and had been awarded the Victory Medal. 

The employees in my department presented me with a 
gold-trimmed wallet and a one dollar bill with their names 
written on it in red indelible ink. This was about all the 
money I was able to save from World War I— it was not 
spendable. 

On my return South I received a letter from Miss Roselyn 
Lesster signed "Your faithful stenographer" telling me about 
the members of my staff. 

Mr. Sick, she said, "was as energetic as ever." Mr. Sisti, who 
was always asking about compensation, "was still asking about 
the bonus." Mr. Titone, who constantly had to get new 



95 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

glasses, "has a new pair of glasses." About Mr. Gulick she 
said, "has the same strange look— didn't find the end of the 
world yet." About Mr. Kennedy who had trouble finding 
Bush Terminal she said, "he is still going to B. T. but never 
gets there." Miss Wahl, who was the department's fastest 
stenographer was still "batting .300." And Miss Turner, 
who kept the big reference book, "was still turning over a 
new leaf." She said about a big fat boy we called King Solo- 
mon because his name was Solomon and he thought he was 
very wise: "He is still sleeping soundly among the file cab- 
inets, but as usual, wakes up at noon and at 4:30." About 
Mrs. Eaton who checked or "accomplished" (to use the mili- 
tary term) "hay vouchers," she said: "She is still pitching 
hay." Miss LeomonofF, the beautiful Russian girl who 
checked motor vehicles and parts, was still "driving her motor 
vouchers." And Mr. Nolan, who was in charge of diversions, 
she said, was "still diverting diversions." 

In the case of Mr. Titone, above mentioned, a funny thing 
happened while I was there. But first let it be said he was one 
of the most efficient workers I have ever seen. He was an 
Italian and very meticulous about his work. 

One day he came to me and said, "Lieutenant, I would like 
to be away Monday." I said "Mr. Titone, let's make it Satur- 
day or some other day, can't we? Monday is such a busy day 
for us." "Well," he said, "Lieutenant, I am to get married 
that day and I would kindly like to be there." I replied, "Very 
well, Mr. Titone, I think you had better be there." 



9 6 



chapter x 
SHOW PLACES IN THE DEEP SOUTH 



O n Saturday, December 22, 1956, my wife and I drove to 
Clinton, South Carolina where we spent the night with Mrs. 
Thornburg's nephews, Milton Mayes and Whitfield Mayes at 
Presbyterian College and Thornwell School. This is a very 
beautiful place. The campuses are just across the street from 
each other. We spent the night in one of the lovely guest 
rooms. We joined the Thornwell faculty in the lovely new 
dining room. Dr. Malcolm McDonald, President, and his 
staff, are certainly doing an excellent job at Thornwell, and 
of course Presbyterian College is one of the finest small col- 
leges in the South. Bordering the nice buildings and in the 
central gardens are huge arrangements of azaleas and roses 
which help to make the campuses show places. 

On Sunday we drove to Atlanta where we spent the Christ- 
mas holidays with my son, Oliver, and his wife, Suzanne, and 
their son, Marc. On Christmas morning the presents were 
brought out from under the Christmas tree. Marc, then six, 
received his first bicycle and his expression was "Oh boy, just 
what I wanted Santa Claus to bring me." Now in 1958 there 
are three children— "Marc," "Mike," and "Matt." 

Atlanta is referred to as the "Gateway" or "Gate City" and 



97 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

with its extended suburbs has almost a million people. Ten 
years ago Atlanta was almost desperate over its traffic prob- 
lems but has pretty well licked this problem by building 
north, south, east, and west, dual expressways that go under 
or over all other streets and provide for through traffic at 
forty to fifty miles per hour. This has eliminated the necessity 
of subways, as you can drive or go by bus right through the 
heart of the city with safety, at fifty miles per hour. 

Atlanta has many fine and well-attended churches. Among 
its industries it has, among many others, Fulton Bag and Cot- 
ton Mills, Exposition Mills, Southern Spring Bed Company 
and Lovable Brassiere Company. Crawford Long and Henry 
Grady Memorial Hospitals, St. Joseph's, Piedmont, Georgia 
Baptist, and Emory are among the largest hospitals in the city. 
Atlanta is also the home of Georgia Tech, Oglethorpe, Agnes 
Scott and Emory. Among the many interesting places we 
visited in Atlanta was the "Wren's Nest," home of Joel 
Chandler Harris, writer of the Uncle Remus series and about 
fifty other books. We saw the Cyclorama at Grant's Park, 
depicting the battle of Atlanta. This park is very large and 
beautiful and boasts wild animals and birds from most of the 
nations of the world. 

Atlanta, being probably the most cosmopolitan city of the 
South, is the home of many famous people, but I will mention 
only one, Mr. Armond May, bank director and head of the 
American Associated Companies and Atlanta Combined 
Laundries. Mr. May is a special friend of mine and has been 
an inspiration to me through the years. He is now about 



9 8 



The Thread of My Life 

ninety years of age, but he is still very active. He writes a 
beautiful poem at the first of each year and sends it out to 
his friends. If you go into his company offices, you will prob- 
ably see him walking from one department to the other. His 
slogan seems to be about the same as the Midwest industrial- 
ist who says that "A man on his feet is worth two on his seat." 

From Atlanta we went to Milledgeville, Georgia for a visit 
with my brother, J. T. Thornburg. Milledgeville is one of the 
oldest and most beautiful towns in Georgia. The Georgia 
Military College, the Georgia State Hospital, Georgia State 
College for Women, and the Federal Hospital for Central 
Georgia are located here. This old town was the capital of 
Georgia from 1830 to about 1855. The old capitol building 
is now a unit of the Georgia Military College. 

We spent the next night with Mrs. Thornburg's aunt, Mrs. 
Naomi Smith, at Folkston, Georgia. Mrs. Smith's late hus- 
band was Clerk of the Court there for many years and was 
succeeded by his son, Everett Smith, who now lives at nearby 
Fernandina Beach, Florida, and is an official in one of the big 
wood pulp plants at that place. 

Next we went to White Springs, Florida, where Colonel 
Gaston of the Gastonia Gazette likes to go and write about 
the Stephen Foster Memorial. This is certainly one of the 
show places and most interesting spots in the South. As you 
enter the beautiful Foster Museum, you are thrilled with the 
strains of "Swanee River," ''Old Folks at Home" and other 
Stephen Foster melodies. The desk, now more than 125 years 
old, on which Stephen Foster wrote these and many other 



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MILES O. THORNBURG 

melodies in 1841, was recently given to the Stephen Foster 
Museum by Mrs. Alfred C. Morneweck, a niece of the famous 
composer. 

The huge Stephen Foster Memorial Tower now being 
erected will overshadow any other tower of this kind to be 
found anywhere. As you leave the beautiful memorial 
grounds and start south down the banks of the lovely Suwan- 
nee River, you imagine you can hear the echo of that lovely 
song. 

From here we traveled to Ocala, Florida, where Silver 
Springs is located. This place may be overrated but it cer- 
tainly draws large crowds, for it is difficult to get a room in 
one of the forty motor courts located between Ocala and Sil- 
ver Springs, a distance of about five miles. It is not primarily 
a garden and yet it is very pretty. There are a number of 
attractions inside the place but the main feature is the trip in 
the glass-bottom boats. Through the glass you see beautiful 
formations, various colored fish and at one place a huge 
spring of clear water about the size of a barrel boiling into 
the clear lake. 

From Silver Springs we went by way of Lakeland to Fort 
Meade, where we spent the weekend as the guests of our 
summer-home neighbor, Mrs. Glada Broyles. We attended the 
wedding and reception of her lovely daughter, Nancy Lee to 
Edward Pierce, of Bartow. Mrs. Broyles' home is surrounded 
by four acres of orange and grapefruit trees and between her 
house and the fruit trees are flame vine, bougainvillea, and 
azaleas. On Monday Mrs. Broyles took us to her big citrus 
groves south of Fort Meade and we gathered grapefruit, 



100 



The Thread of My Life 

Valencia oranges and tangerines to our heart's content. When 
we were leaving, Mrs. Broyles filled our car with fruit. 

We had tentative plans to go to Miami, and West Palm 
Beach, as we had invitations at these places to visit Mr. and 
Mrs. Ralph Griffin of Gastonia and our niece and her hus- 
band, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Warren, at West Palm Beach. We 
wanted very much to go to these lovely places as we have on 
former occasions, but time would hardly permit and then too 
we felt it would be best not to buck the big Orange Bowl 
crowd, as it was January 1. We therefore went to Cypress 
Gardens which we consider the greatest showplace in Florida. 
You are profoundly impressed from the time you enter, and 
when you leave you can hardly refrain from looking back. 
The tropical flowers seen from the trails or boats are most 
glamorous. At various points there are beautiful girls posing 
in their colored hoop skirts. In fact, it becomes a little con- 
fusing to the men to figure out which is the most attractive— 
the flowers or the girls. We were most impressed by the Flame 
Vine, which could be seen in large masses hanging 60 or 75 
feet above the ground in the tops of huge cypress trees. 

The water ski show at Cypress Gardens is worth the price 
of admission. The Gardens, and Lake Eloise which separates 
Cypress Gardens from Winter Haven, are the international 
homes of water skiing. The water ski champion aquamaids 
have been the subject of many movies as well as the famous 
cinerama show. Esther Williams and Van Johnson made the 
movie "Easy To Love" here in 1952. The skiing is spectacular 
and is considered the "three ring circus" of the skiing world. 

One should never go to Florida to "see the sights" without 



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MILES O. THORNBURG 

seeing Cypress Gardens. As you enter the beautiful place you 
see in large letters these words, "If you'd have a mind of 
peace, A heart that cannot harden, Go find a door that opens 
wide, Upon a beautiful garden." 

We bypassed Bok Tower at Lake Wales as we had been 
there before but in passing it should be said that it is a fas- 
cinating experience to go through the gardens at Bok Tower 
and hear the beautiful chimes. The tower is built on a hill 
overlooking the town of Lake Wales. From the tower can be 
seen lakes on every side and the lakes are surrounded by cit- 
rus groves. 

Having had enough glamor at Cypress Gardens, we passed 
up Daytona Beach on this trip, but we do like to go there 
occasionally. It is a beautiful place and probably draws more 
people than any other city in Florida as "everybody and his 
brother" seem to go there during all seasons of the year. 

Our next stop was St. Augustine. We do not feel that we 
have visited Florida without going to this ancient city. It both 
fascinates and intrigues us. On our previous visits, we stayed 
at the Hotel Bennett or one of the many tourist courts, but 
we decided to stay this time at the Ponce de Leon Hotel, 
built by Henry M. Flagler in 1885. More than 1,200 people 
were employed in building the hotel. It was started in 1885 
and completed in 1888 at a cost of three million dollars. It is 
estimated that if the materials and artists were available to- 
day, it would cost fifteen million. As you pass through the 
beautiful archway, graceful arched loggias surround the court 
on three sides. Above it rises the two main towers of the 
building. In huge lights over the gateway you see Bien 



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Venido, the Spanish for "Welcome." Over the entrance to the 
rotunda or main lobby are several old Spanish proverbs 
painted on shields: "The sheep that bleats loses its mouth- 
ful," "One man's meat is another man's poison," and "One 
does not make an omelet without breaking eggs." 

The three-story rotunda is probably unsurpassed in splen- 
dor by any hotel in all the world. There are frescoes and 
murals in the main lobby and in various parlors and the huge 
dining room. All rooms, and especially the dining room, are 
huge. In fact, the dining room will accommodate about one 
thousand guests at one sitting. The bedrooms are really suites 
and are not much higher in price than the rooms at the better 
commercial hotels. A broad staircase of onyx and marble 
leads to the gorgeous dining room. On the landing, set in 
antique mosaic letters in the floor is the verse of the English 
poet, Shenstone: 

Who'er has travel'd life's dull round, 
Where'er his stages may have been, 
May sigh to think he still has found, 
The warmest welcome at an inn. 

As Ripley, whose place is nearby, would say— the breakfast 
is a "believe it or not." They serve a continental breakfast for 
only eighty cents, which includes a silver pot of delicious cof- 
fee. It is a very quiet, restful place, and is typical of this 
ancient city— the oldest in the United States. Here is the old- 
est house in the country, the ancient Plaza, Ripley's, the 
Fountain of Youth, Potters Wax Museum and many other 
famous and interesting places. 



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MILES O. THORNBURG 



One could profitably spend many days in the Lightner 
Museum of hobbies. As you enter you see this poem: 

In-laws are rodents in human guise, 
They eat me out of cakes and pies: 
Over hills and valleys and rivers and ruts, 
They come for dinner— I hate their guts. 

From St. Augustine we crossed the Matanzas Bay on the 
Bridge of Lions and took A-l-A up the coast by way of Ponte 
Verde and Jacksonville Beaches to Atlantic Beach where we 
visited for an hour with Mrs. William Ross. This dear lady, 
now about 90 years of age, was my second mother when I 
went to Atlanta as a young man in 1912. She now lives with 
her daughter, Mrs. Belle Gray Lauder. Despite her advanced 
age, she walks to the beach each day and visits a group of 
"shut ins" each week. When we left, Mrs. Thornburg re- 
marked that "It was a benediction to have visited that dear 
old lady." 

By way of Fernandina Beach, we came to Brunswick, 
Georgia, where we spent the night at the Oglethorpe Hotel, 
"Southeast Georgia's largest and finest." 

From Brunswick we came to Claxton, Georgia, a beautiful 
town forty miles west of Savannah, where we spent two days 
with Mr. and Mrs. John Romanstine and my grandchildren, 
Emily and Andy. This little town has two sewing factories 
and the famous Claxton bakery which makes and ships to all 
parts of the country the "old fashion fruit cake." The town 
is backed up by cattle farms, tobacco farms and pecan groves. 
Fishing and hunting are good in this area. We spent an after- 

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The Thread of My Life 

noon on Mr. Tom Edwards' ranch where we caught a nice 
string of bream in his lake, and they made a most delicious 
supper. 

From Claxton we took 301 and 321 by Allendale and 
Columbia, South Carolina, to our home in Gastonia. We had 
seen on the trip many of the Howard Johnson eating places 
but had not had occasion to stop at one until we reached the 
suburbs of Columbia. We found the lunch excellent, and 
especially liked their famous ice cream. They have many 
famous dishes but with all due respect to Sealtest and other 
well known brands, Howard Johnson's 28 flavors seem to be 
about the last word in ice cream. 

Florida Revisited 

A little over a year later, in March, 1958, we returned to 
Florida and our description of this tour was published by 
Colonel Gaston in The Gastonia Gazette, as follows: 

We went just after the big freeze the latter part of February 
and spent most of the time in Orlando, which is one of our 
favorite places in Florida. We like Orlando because it is 
quiet, beautiful and has good fishing. 

We arrived at Orlando and before noon had located a nice 
efficiency apartment by a lake. The fish in the lake were 
rather small but they would bite and when we failed to catch 
enough for dinner, we just bought some from other fishermen 
who had had better luck, for after all, one of the best ways to 
catch fish is with the "silver hook." 

It doesn't have the glamor of Miami, but it is the center 

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MILES O. THORNBURG 

of the citrus fruit industry and many other important things. 
While there, we visited the Ben White Raceway where about 
500 of the nation's leading harness race horses are trained. 
This is the leading training center in the country, and the 
approximately 500 horses that train there in the winter are 
valued at $25,000 to $200,000 each. 

We met Mr. and Mrs. Newsom, who occupied the apart- 
ment next to ours and who invited us to go to the Saturday 
afternoon races with them. They own horses and in their 
Winston-Salem factory make and sell various things that 
horse owners buy. We estimate we saw $5,000,000 worth of 
horses in the races. The proceeds went to charity and the 
races were held to decide which horses could qualify for the 
New York State races this coming season. At the races we 
saw George Monoghan, racing commissioner of New York 
State; Bob Terry, publisher of "Horseman and Fair World"; 
Steve Phillips, inventor of the "Phillips Starting Gate," and 
many other important people. 

We also saw the famous Johnny Simpson of Chester, S. C., 
drive his famous "Torpid." His "Hickory Smoke" and his 
"Torpid" were the country's leading trotters and pacers last 
year. Johnny earned $482,000 last year himself on the track 
and his Orlando Ben White Raceway trained stable earned 
him $600,000. He is now 38 years old and started in the 
stables at 18. His slogan is "You have to start in the stable 
and live in the stable with the horses in order to know them 
and succeed in this business." 

One day we drove to nearby Apopka Lake and fished. This 
is one of the largest lakes in Florida and is called the "fisher- 

106 



The Thread of My Life 

man's paradise" of Florida. They have many "fish camps" 
and you can rent an apartment or pay a small fee and fish 
from the piers or by boat. The big catch seemed to be speckle 
perch and ran from about one pound to three or four pounds 
each. While there, we met a superintendent of Minute Maid's 
17,000 acre citrus orchard and were privileged to drive 
through and pick some oranges from the trees. We noticed in 
The Orlando Sentinel that the estimate for the citrus crop 
for Florida was 85 million boxes of oranges and 32 million 
boxes of grapefruit. This, when sold over the counter with 
the limes, lemons and tangerines, would bring more than 
$500,000,000. 

The damage was estimated to be 30% to trees from the 
cold weather, but we were told in the orchards that most of 
the trees which appeared to be killed would come out and 
the damage would probably be reduced to 10%. 

We made several short trips in the morning to nearby 
points of interest. One of these places was the fabulous Lang- 
ford Hotel in nearby Winter Park. This hotel is said to be 
Florida's newest and finest. 

Winter Park is a suburb of Orlando and the home of Rol- 
lins College. It is a swanky place and building lots on the 
lake there sell for $6,000 to $12,000. Real estate prices in 
Florida have been advancing rapidly during the past few 
years. The paper stated that sales recorded at the courthouse 
for only one week in that county (Orange) amounted to 
$2,826,300. 

An artist's drawing in Sunday's paper of the modernistic 
five million dollar annex to the courthouse in Orlando is a 



107 



MILES O. THORNBURG 



sample of the tremendous growth of Florida in general. 

We made several other stops, one at St. Augustine at a 
hotel overlooking Matanzas Bay and the Bridge of Lions. We 
love to go to this old city. 

Then we spent a night with Lou's aunt just across the 
Florida line at Folkston, Ga. She told us about the snow that 
they had on the early morning of the 13th of February. She 
said phones commenced ringing all over town at 2 o'clock in 
the morning— urging each friend to wake up and see the 
snow. All were sure it would be gone before daylight. It 
snowed about two inches and stayed on the ground until 
about ten o'clock, but the people got up and dressed their 
children and made snow men before daylight. It was exciting 
and some were really frightened. 

The last night out we stayed at one of the Barringer Hotels 
on Augusta's famous Broad street overlooking the Savannah 
River. 

We do not wonder why President Eisenhower likes to go 
to Augusta. It is semi-tropical and a lovely place to visit. 
Broad street is one of the prettiest in the country and looks a 
good deal like Canal street in New Orleans. 

The Mardi Gras 

The Mardi Gras or Mardi Grass as Will Rogers facetiously 
called it, is something long to be remembered but impossible 
to describe adequately. Several times I had been through New 
Orleans during Mardi Gras season, but neither Mrs. Thorn- 
burg nor I had ever been there on Mardi Gras Day, and I had 

108 



The Thread of My Life 

always been told that I had not seen Mardi Gras if I were not 
there on that day. 

This year the major celebration started on March 1 and 
ended on Mardi Gras Day, March 5. We left Gastonia on 
March 1 and spent the night at Atlanta with my son, Oliver, 
and his wife, Suzanne, and saw our new grandbaby, Michael 
Lee, who was born on February 8, 1957. Oliver was on the 
Georgia Tech staff as sales executive for Radio Station 
WGST, but later he joined WAGA-TV. 

Saturday morning, March 2, we drove to Mobile and West 
Point, Georgia and Troy and Andalusia, Alabama. The latter 
town is headquarters for the southern lumber industry. We 
could hardly see the city but could smell it as the smoke from 
the lumber mills is dense. Some of the big lumber mills cut, 
dry and finish the lumber. The smell of the place reminds 
me of the story that Miss Naomi Bras well, former Religious 
Educational Director at the First Baptist Church, Gastonia, 
told about Bogalusa, La. While attending the Baptist Sem- 
inary in New Orleans, she boarded at a place north of this 
town. She said the trolley car conductor would go to sleep 
after he took up her ticket but when he approached Boga- 
lusa and smelled the odor from the big pulp wood plants 
there he would jump up and shout "Bogalusa." 

In approaching Mobile you go under Mobile Bay through 
a tunnel or tube at about the place where Admiral Farragut 
captured the Confederate fleet in 1864. Mobile also has a 
Mardi Gras so we reached the city in time to see the afternoon 
parade. We went to the Cawthon Hotel overlooking Bienville 
Park and after registering, we went around the corner to see 

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MILES O. THORNBURG 

the beautiful Waterman Steamship Building. In the lobby of 
this building is probably the largest Atlas in the world. It 
turns on an axis so you can sit in one place and see the whole 
world as it turns. The atlas is probably twenty-five feet high 
and is tilted forty-five degrees to show all parts of the world 
on the same scale. This company advertises "The sun never 
sets on the Waterman flag." 

After having dinner at Morrison's cafeteria, we witnessed 
the evening Mardi Gras parade that came right by our hotel. 
They say the Mardi Gras started in Mobile but of course New 
Orleans later "stole the show." 

Sunday morning, March 3, we drove along the Gulf to 
Biloxi and Gulf port to New Orleans. This is probably the 
most beautiful drive in America and is sometimes referred to 
as the "Riviera of America." It is a dual drive of 160 miles 
with tropical flowers and beautiful hotels and residences on 
the north side and the Gulf and beaches on the south side. 

In New Orleans we checked into the Monteleone Hotel on 
Royal Street in the Vieux Carre or Old French Quarter. This 
famous hotel was built by a Mr. Monteleone in the early years 
of the 19th century out of profits he made from a shoe factory 
he established there. He brought the shoe manufacturing 
machinery over with him from France, along with many 
expert shoe makers. The hotel is sixteen stories high and 
covers a whole block. Mi. Monteleone was greatly beloved in 
New Orleans. He passed away many years ago. He spent his 
declining years at the hotel and would go around the lobby 
introducing himself to guests by saying, "I am Mr. Monte- 
leone." 



i io 



The Thread of My Life 

Sunday evening we caught a trolley and went to the New 
First Baptist Church on beautiful St. Charles Street to hear 
Dr. J. D. Gray, the pastor and former President of the South- 
ern Baptist Convention. Dr. Gray is one of the most outstand- 
ing preachers in the South and his church, which seats about 
two thousand, was filled almost to capacity on Sunday night. 
The music, consisting of a seventy-five voice choir, an organ, 
piano, and several other musical instruments, was most inspir- 
ing. 

Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey used to adver- 
tise their show as "The greatest show on earth" but the Mardi 
Gras is probably the greatest. The secret of any great show is 
the backstage work and the setting. You can more easily 
understand the great success of Mardi Gras when you con- 
sider New Orleans. So let's first take a brief look at its statis- 
tics: Population over 1,000,000; second largest port in the 
United States, with fourteen miles of wharves; spending one 
billion dollars on port improvements over a ten year period, 
beginning in 1955; imports and exports in 1957— two billion 
dollars; more than 4,000 ocean-going ships dock annually; 
forty-two nations maintain consular offices; it has eight trunk 
line railroads; within a 150 mile radius, one-eighth of the 
world's petroleum and one-fifth of the world's gas is pro- 
duced; twelve colleges, including Tulane; five outstanding 
museums; a great medical center with 7,000 hospital beds; 
new residential buildings in the last 10 years to house 200,000 
persons. 

In and around New Orleans one can fish every day in the 
year without fishing twice in the same body of water; eight 



1 1 1 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

fine golf courses; new city hall cost nine million dollars; now 
under construction another $65 million bridge across the 
"Old Miss" and a $54 million bridge across Lake Pontchar- 
train. 

The Mississippi River carries by New Orleans 5,000 times 
as much water as the city needs. 

Our dinner at Antoines and breakfast at Brennens were 
delicious, but frankly not much better than Morrison's or 
Holsum's Cafeterias, and they cost much more. 

The skyline, west of Canal Street, is a tremendous sight, 
but after all, it is just another city. The showplace is the 
Vieux Carre. One writer has said: "Within the hundred 
squares of the Vieux Carre, history has been halted, tenderly 
preserved; without a long sea voyage, there is no comparable 
experience for the American traveler. You ride behind a 
hatted horse through streets of another world, another cen- 
tury. Across the Spanish Main in another age men came and 
could see that here at the natural entrance to a valley, vast 
and rich beyond foreseeing, a city had to grow. Here they 
built their shops and their homes, the patios paved with 
Europe's stones brought as ballast in empty ships they meant 
to fill with treasure. How long ago? Their grandsons grown 
were profitably busy in world trade when Revere woke the 
farmers of Middlesex! You can see their city as it was, and 
finally find in it peace and strange beauty and more fun than 
you ever have had." 

The Mardi Gras period is two weeks and always climaxes 
on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which this year was 
March 5. On the final or "Mardi Gras Day" the parades start 



112 



The Thread of My Life 

at 9:00 a.m. and go to 9:00 p.m. Mardi Gras means "Fat 
Tuesday" and was started by Iberville, the French colonist, 
in 1699. In 1847 it assumed its present form and has grown 
more elaborately since that time. It is estimated that 500,000 
people see the parades along St. Charles Avenue and Royal 
and Canal Streets. One of the principal features of Mardi 
Gras Day is the costuming on Canal Street. Can you imagine 
a half million costumes and hardly any two alike? They range 
from the devil to the angels and from the ridiculous to the 
sublime. No true citizen of New Orleans would fail to be in 
costume on that day, nor would most of the visitors. Many 
of the costumes are very beautiful and many are weird and 
grotesque. Fun is the idea, so they do not fail to keep you 
laughing all the time. 

About eight different themes or parades were staged Tues- 
day. At 9:00 a.m. when the Negro parade, led by King Zula, 
tore down Canal Street, it was something terrific. The 
Krewe of Orleans parade was one of the most colorful and 
contained 130 floats besides all the bands, etc. The motifs 
varied widely from ancient Chinese to present day. The float 
"Winter Wonderland" won the prize in this huge parade. 

King Rex's parade was not the largest or most glamorous 
but the most important. The theme for it was "Favorite 
Stories from the Old Testament" such as "Lucifer and the 
Fallen Angels," "The Garden of Eden," "Noah and the Ark," 
"The Tower of Babel," "The Pillar of Salt," "Jacob and the 
Golden Ladder," "Joseph and the Land of Pharoah," "Cross- 
ing the Red Sea," "The Ten Commandments," "Joshua 
Fought the Battle of Jericho," "The Day the Sun and Moon 

ii3 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

Stood Still," "Samson and Delilah," "David and Goliath," 
"King Solomon, The Wise," "The Fiery Furnace," "The 
Handwriting on the Wall," "Daniel in the Lion's Den," 
and "Jonah and the Whale." These floats were exceedingly 
beautiful. Each so different and portraying perfectly its sub- 
ject. 

Canal Street is the widest and possibly also the longest in 
America and makes glamorous streets in other cities look like 
side shows. 

New Orleans spends about a half million dollars each year 
on the Mardi Gras. You ask how can they afford it? That's 
easy. It has been a business with them for more than a hun- 
dred years and they have learned how to make it pay off. The 
hotels do about two million dollars worth of business during 
the Mardi Gras season. There are about five companies in 
New Orleans that make Mardi Gras costumes. They make 
more than a million of them to sell from a few dollars to 
thousands of dollars each. If they average ten dollars that is 
a ten million dollar total. The thousands of stores and shops 
are packed full for a week or more. All prices are stepped up 
substantially for the season. Don't feel sorry for them, for the 
cost is distributed among the local people and the visitors 
probably pay most of it. 

The Times-Picayune said, "There's nothing like Canal 
Street. No one ever actually counted the thousands who greet 
King Rex but most estimates are a half million. Go the nation 
over and nowhere will you find anything as colorful as this 
New Orleans main artery where Rex, the lord of misrule, 
greets his subjects." 



114 



The Thread of My Life 

On Wednesday we came to Bellingrath Gardens, near 
Mobile. Anyone out to visit beautiful gardens can not afford 
to pass up this one. It is a year-round garden, but, of course, 
the azaleas and camellias predominate at this season. We can 
agree that this is "The charm spot of the Deep South" as 
advertised. 

We came to Montgomery for the night and saw again the 
old State Capitol and stood on the bronze star on the big 
front porch overlooking the downtown section where Jeff 
Davis stood and made his inaugural address as president of 
the Southern Confederacy. 

Thursday we came by Tuskegee, the large Negro college 
made famous by the late Dr. Booker T. Washington and 
carried on by Dr. George Washington Carver and others. Dr. 
Luther Foster is now president. 

This is one of the largest and best Negro colleges in the 
South and has about five thousand students. In my extensive 
travels through the deep South during the last thirty years, 
when I have met up with a real courteous and refined colored 
boy or girl and asked them where they went to school, almost 
invariably the reply has been "Tuskegee." 

When I lived in Atlanta in 1915, I went to hear Dr. Wash- 
ington speak at a Bible conference. He was the only Negro 
on the conference program. Dr. Charles Daniels, then pastor 
of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, introduced him to the 
audience by telling the true story of President Theodore 
Roosevelt's fox hunt in Alabama in 1902. He said the fox 
had gone under the gate and into the Tuskegee Reservation 
and so did the dogs, but Mr. Roosevelt and party were 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

stopped by an old darky holding the gate. Some one said, 
"Uncle, this is Mr. Roosevelt, President of the United States." 
The old darky bowed low and said, "Mr. President, I'se heard 
of you and you are a great man, but I has strict orders and 
if you was Booker T. himself, I could not let you through 
this gate." 

We came back to Atlanta for a more extended visit with my 
son and family and with our beloved in-laws, the Adams fam- 
ily, in the suburban town of Hapeville. There are eight liv- 
ing members in this family now. The niece, Mary Ann, re- 
cently married a Baptist minister, Harry Carswell of Knox- 
ville, and the nephew, Donald, is a Lieutenant in the Army. 
Miss Mae Adams is connected with the Rich Department 
Stores and Everett Adams is with the government warehouse 
at nearby Connally, where Uncle Sam has several billion dol- 
lars worth of supplies. Mac Nesbit, the brother-in-law, is in 
charge of motor repair for the Eighth Army at nearby Fort 
McPherson, and Mrs. Nesbit is the home-keeper. The other 
two, Weymon and Theron Adams, live elsewhere. The hobby 
of Everett and Mac is fowls. In the preparatory room adjacent 
to the kitchen, they showed us the "day's take" consisting of 
25 dozen chicken, turkey, guinea, quail, chucker, dove, pheas- 
ant and peacock eggs. It is a profitable hobby as they sell the 
eggs from the wild fowls at $4.00 to $5.00 per dozen. The best 
part about it was they gave us four dozen fresh hen eggs to 
bring home. More power to the hens and may they continue 
to lay fresh fruit. 

Hapeville is a town of 15,000. It is largely residential but 
it has the Ford plant, the Georgia Baptist Orphan's Home, 

n6 



The Thread of My Life 

and the Municipal Airport, which is about the third largest 
of the United States and was recently made an international 
airport. 

Our next hop was to Clinton, South Carolina, to spend 
the night with Mrs. Thornburg's nephews, Milton and Whit- 
field Mayes. These boys visit us in Gastonia occasionally. Milt 
is doing real well at Presbyterian College and teaches a class 
of boys in Sunday School. Whit was one of only two honor 
students at Thornwell last semester, and is a Junior Coun- 
cillor in his church. 

Well, it is good to get back home. With all due respects to 
the nice places we went, we still say, "Be it ever so humble," 
there's no place like it. 



117 



Appendix 



worrnnrsinroTr^^ 

PERSONAL AND OTHERWISE 



Interview by Reporter in 1956 

/ never liked to have my picture taken for if I smile it 
looks silly, and if I don't it looks too much like me. Also I 
don't like to be interviewed as I have to tell too much 
about myself; however, I did submit to an interview sev- 
eral years ago by a Gastonia Gazette reporter and this is 
what he wrote: 

"Miles O. Thornburg, secretary of Groves Thread Co., 
Inc., estimates that he has traveled at least one million miles 
by automobile during the past 30 years, and his expeditions 
have taken him from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and deep 
into Canada, Mexico, and Cuba. 

"Traveling is his hobby, and when not working, nothing 
delights him more than to pile a few belongings into his 
Dodge and take off for points of historic interest. 

"He can converse learnedly about the state of upkeep of the 
Alamo in Texas, can describe first-hand the ancient missions 
of California, will give you whatever information you might 



121 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

need about the outstanding expositions of the decade, or is 
able to talk knowingly about affairs locally peculiar to dozens 
of large cities across the continent. 

"Mr. Thornburg, who is one of the leading citizens of our 
city and community, has been affiliated in executive positions 
with Groves Thread for 30 years. He is now secretary of the 
corporation, which employs around 700 persons in three 
large spinning units and a finishing plant, and was listed as 
one of the who's who in thread manufacturing in 1950. 

"Many people don't know it, but the Groves Company 
makes industrial sewing thread for various large manufac- 
turers over the country, producing all numbers, twists and 
descriptions, wound in various lengths. Groves turns out 
around 350 descriptions of sewing thread, specializing in the 
following seaming and sewing threads: natural, bleached, 
dyed, silk finish, soft finish and mercerized. Also nylon and 
other synthetic threads. Groves prides itself on complete dye- 
ing facilities for accurate color matching, with a full range 
of numbers in natural cotton color thread, with special dress- 
ing, if required. 

"Treasurer and general manager of the corporation is Earl 
T. Groves, and M. O. Thornburg is secretary. 

"Mr. Thornburg was born in Kings Mountain on July 5, 
1891. Growing up, he attended Gastonia High School, Pied- 
mont Junior College, and Southern Commercial University 
in Atlanta. Now, he has a son, Oliver Thornburg, who has 
moved to Atlanta. The young man, who now in 1950 is 26 
years old, is a CBS newscaster, and you've probably heard 
him speak over the far-flung Columbia system. 



122 



The Thread of My Life 

"In 1917 Mr. Thornburg, as a young man was given a suit 
of khaki and eventually worked his way up to a lieutenant's 
commission in the Army during World War I. When he was 
mustered out, in 1919, he came to Gastonia and went with 
the Armstrong chain of mills. Next, he served for several 
years with the W. T. Love textile interests. His third connec- 
tion, which began 30 years ago, was with Groves. That was 
in 1923. 

"You'll find him at his desk now daily, from 8:30 a.m. 
until 5:00 in the afternoon. He's always in a jovial mood, and 
ready to greet any visitor with a smile. 

"Mr. Thornburg long has taken an active part in the civic 
and religious work of the city. He is a past president, and a 
charter member, of the Gastonia Civitan Club. He is vice- 
president of the North Carolina Baptist Brotherhood, is a 
member of the executive committee of the Gaston Baptist 
Association, and in his own church, the First Baptist, is chair- 
man of the board of deacons." 

Honorable Decisions 

Decisions are sometimes hard to make. Usually we can 
make them very quickly and even without thinking if they 
are routine but others must be pondered over, slept over and 
even prayed over. A volume could be written on right deci- 
sions but I think we can sum it all up by recalling an incident 
about Lou Gehrig. 

Everyone who is interested in athletics has followed the 
course of Lou Gehrig, the idol of the athletic youth of Ameri- 

123 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

ca, who retired from the Yankees when the doctors told him 
he could not continue playing baseball. 

One day Lou Gehrig was offered two positions, one which 
would pay him $6,000 a year and the other $30,000 a year. 
He accepted the $6,000 position as city parole commissioner 
of New York City. He gave as his reason for declining the 
$30,000 offer that it entailed the use of his name with an 
enormous restaurant and drinking place. "It didn't seem the 
right thing to do. I would not actually have had anything to 
do with it in the first place; and somehow I didn't fancy my 
name in lights over a place like that." 

We think more than ever of Lou Gehrig who learned that 
"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches." 

Interesting Letters 

This letter was written by my Grandfather to his old 
friend in 1867 : 

White Plains, N. C. 
February the 14th, 1867 

Mr. I. W. Fullton, Paris, Texas. 

After some time and trouble I seat myself to drop you a few 
lines. We are well and hope this letter may find you and Mrs. 
Fullton the same. 

Billie, I received those notes and accounts you sent back 
but have nothing yet but the Oats-note but I will get the 
Hallmans too maybe. Rush says you forged his account on 
him and he says he will swear to it and prove it besides. Led- 
ford won't have a thing to do with either the notes or accounts 



124 



The Thread of My Life 

but says he looks to me for his money. Billie, I have put con- 
fidence in you in days past and gone and I do yet, so times 
being very hard and every man pushing I am afraid they will 
sell me out yet if you do not stand up to me which I believe 
you will. So I want the balance by Spring court if possible 
which will be about $45.00. Billie I want you to say in your 
letter which I hope to receive whether or not that note you 
gave to Ledford was to be in specie or United States currency. 
Falls is trying to recover specie so I want you to say how the 
thing is. 

Billie, I am troubled so I had liked to a forgot I want to 
know how you like the country and what sort of water you 
have and how you think the country would suit old Haywood 
for if I can get to a better place I will move from here shore. 
So I will say no more at present I believe but one thing and 
that is this I want you to write soon as I do not expect to 
sleep much until I get a answer from you so nothing more 
but I remain your old friend. 

Haywood Harmon 

Several letters received and written to leading Baptists 
in 1924 while serving as President of the N. C. Baptist 
Young Peoples Union. Letter from Mr. Perry Morgan, 
Secretary B.Y.P.U. work in N. C: 

July 5, 1924 

Dear Mr. Thomburg: 

I received your telegram while I was at Morehead City. 
Your letter of June 28 was on my desk when I returned to 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

the office. I am using this, my first opportunity, to write you. 

First of all, let me say I am more than delighted at the 
action of the Convention in electing you president. I have 
always found you a true-hearted, whole-hearted, genial work- 
er. I do not anticipate anything other than that we shall go 
hand in hand carrying out the great program adopted by the 
Convention. 

I thank you for the copy of the "Gaston County Messen- 
ger." You certainly have a firm hold on the Baptists of your 
Association. 

I hope I may see you in the near future and have a heart 
to heart talk with you about our plans for the year. I want 
you to feel free to call on me for any service. I will never be 
too tired or too busy to pay attention to your wants and needs. 

Dr. Walter Johnson was in my office Thursday. There was 
some misunderstanding between us regarding the Wilming- 
ton engagement. We have straightened it out, however, and 
all is well. 

Richest blessings upon you! 

Sincerely, 
Perry Morgan 

Dear Thornburg, "Miss Clyde" and M. O. Jr. 

Your letter of June 28 just read with consuming interest. 
I congratulate the head of the family upon becoming the 
head of the family of B.Y.P.U.'s. It is quite worthy and be- 
coming of Georgia products that you should hold such a 
position of distinction. I am truly happy. 

You asked a difficult question when you inquire as to the 

126 



The Thread of My Life 

duties of a state president. It depends upon conditions in the 
state. My conception of a president's duties always was that 
he, besides having charge of the conventions, should confer 
frequently with the State Secretary, advising him and advis- 
ing with him as to every policy and plan of the state; and 
that he use his influence with the State Mission Board and 
the authorities higher up to institute whatever reforms, inno- 
vations and new steps may be needed in the state. He should 
appear before the State Convention and as many association 
meetings as possible in the interest of the B.Y.P.U. He should 
assist the State Secretary in securing new workers when 
needed, in getting proper recognition on Convention pro- 
grams, in getting publicity, etc. When I have said that, I have 
given you my conception. The details, of course, I can not 
suggest as I do not know the need in the state. 

It is delightful to hear the news of the family and to know 
that the baby is growing so nicely. We have two at our house. 
One of them is in the teeth cutting experience of the second 
summer which means that the tear ducts are constantly full 
to overflowing. The other one is in the trying fifth year when 
self assertiveness is apparent. It is a great game and life 
would be little without it. 

My love to each of the family and assurances that my 
interest and pride follow you in your new responsibility. 

Yours cordially, 
Frank H. Leavell 
Secretary 
Georgia B.Y.P.U. 



127 



MILES O. THORNBURG 



Letter written in 1936 while serving as President of 
the Gastonia Civitan Club. 

July 1, 1936 

Mr. Arthur Cundy, Secretary 
Civitan International 
Birmingham, Alabama 

Dear Mr. Secretary: 

The writer and family enjoyed the convention at Hartford 
immensely and were most favorably impressed with Civitan 
International and for a bigger and better Civitan during the 
coming year. 

We wish to thank you for the packet of literature which 
the writer has read with interest and passed along to the 
respective committees. There is renewed interest and enthu- 
siasm in our club at this time. 

Enclosed herewith is a list of our committees and officers 
and a copy of programs which were unanimously adopted for 
the ensuing year. You can count on us to cooperate to the best 
of our ability. 

The writer wrote our Vice President and Program Chair- 
man after talking with you in Hartford regarding your pro- 
posed visit to our Club, but found that it was impossible to 
change the date to July 1st due to the fact that it would con- 
flict with other club meetings in the city at that time, hence 
we are going ahead with our programs as originally arranged, 
and will hope to have you visit and address our Club on 
September 2nd which we will expect to make a red letter day. 
We will have our program well under way for the year at 

128 



The Thread of My Life 

that time and will need an inspirational address from you. 

Will appreciate your writing us at your earliest conven- 
ience confirming this arrangement or what other date you 
could come if you cannot come at that time. 

Our programs have already been arranged through July 
but would be glad to have you any time on or after August 
5th, and we meet every two weeks as follows: August 5th, 
August 19th, September 2nd, September 16th, September 
30th, etc. 

Awaiting your advices and with kind regards, we remain 

Yours very truly, 
M. O. Thornburg, President 
Gastonia Civitan Club. 

Letter received August 12, 1939 from Mr. William B. 
Hartsfield, Mayor of Atlanta read: 

I cordially invite you to fly to Atlanta for the three day 
celebration of the World Premiere of "Gone With the 
Wind," December 4 to 16. 

Wm. B. Hartsfield, 
Mayor of Atlanta 

In March 1945 , 1 received a letter from Supreme Court 
Judge Emery B. Denny, which I think is significant. 
Those who know Judge Denny know that he is not a pro- 
lific letter writer or a man of many words, but when he 
does speak, it is to emphasize or encourage something he 
considers eminently worthwhile. I quote Judge Denny's 
letter as follows: 

129 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

I am delighted to see that you are to direct the Meredith 
Campaign in Gaston County. That means that the quota will 
be raised. Meredith is an outstanding school and, with the 
additional funds now being raised, it should be in a position 
to go forward in a great way. 

In 1946, while I zvas serving as President of the 8th 
District N. C. Baptist Brotherhood, Dr. John Wimbish, 
Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, New York City, was 
invited to speak at our annual convention. The following 
letter received from this great evangelist will serve to 
show the "play side" of a great preacher: 

May 17, 1956 

Dear Brother Thornburg: 

Thank you for your good letter of May 13. I now have my 
travel plans completed. The Lord willing, I shall arrive at 
the airport in Charlotte at 2:34 Monday afternoon, May 21, 
Eastern's Flight No. 527. I trust that this will be convenient 
for your schedule. 

Please don't think I spend all my hours dreaming about 
fishing; however, I would like to go out to the lake on Mon- 
day afternoon, if we can do so, and Tuesday morning. 

If this works any hardship on you, please do not feel obli- 
gated in any way whatsoever; but if you could arrange to get 
me out to the lake, it will mean a great deal to me to have 
just a few hours of fishing. 

Naturally, I am looking forward most of all to the meeting 



130 



The Thread of My Life 

on Tuesday night. It should be an inspiring service with that 
great men's choir and all the other brethren singing the old 
hymns of the church. 

Sincerely yours in Christ, 
John S. Wimbish. 

The textile industry is now, in March 1957 , feeling the 
effects of the lowering of the tariff on foreign imports. I 
am copying a letter here that I wrote to our Senators and 
Congressmen and many others in February, 1955 , which I 
think gives a brief resume of the effects of tearing down 
the tariff wall that had served us so well for many years: 

February 21, 1955 

Dear 

We have noticed recently the administration tendency in 
Washington to lower further the tariff protection against vital 
commodities. This will greatly affect textiles. 

The textile industry is already adversely affected by previ- 
ous tariff concessions as much as 50 to 75 per cent, whereas 
not one tariff concession has been granted us on cotton goods 
by other countries. This has resulted in our losing our former 
export business on cotton thread, yarn, piece goods and fin- 
ished cotton products. 

Considerable necessary help is being given the free world 
by the U.S.A. but further lowering of the tariffs would most 
certainly go a long way toward killing the goose that is laying 
the golden egg. 

l 3 l 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

This is a very serious matter as further tariff reductions on 
imported cotton goods from foreign countries would adverse- 
ly affect the textile industry. 

In other words, we have already, as pointed out above, lost 
our export business by reason of foreign countries raising 
their tariffs against us but if we further lower our tariffs and 
allow these foreign countries to unload their cheap goods into 
this country, it would absorb a large percentage of our domes- 
tic business and could and doubtless would eventually result 
in drastic curtailment of our operations, thus adversely affect- 
ing stockholders, employees and the American public as a 
whole. 

We sincerely hope you will oppose the further lowering 
of the tariff vigorously. 

Yours very truly, 
Groves Thread Co., Inc. 
M. O. Thornburg, Sec'y. 

Letter received January, 1957 from Mr. Brice Dickson, 
Executive Secretary, Gastonia Chamber of Commerce: 

January 8, 1957 

Dear Mr. Thornburg: 

We regret very much to have your notice stating that you 
will not be able to continue as an individual member of the 
Chamber due to the fact that you retired last July 1st. 

Your membership here in the Chamber has been a very 
fruitful one, for I distinctly remember the promptness of 
your attendance at all committee meetings and your willing- 



The Thread of My Life 

ness to always work on whatever assignment given. While you 
will not be an active dues-paying individual we still look 
forward to your valuable contribution through the member- 
ship of Groves Thread Company— while you have retired 
from your active business career we don't want you to retire 
from your civic responsibilities. 

With kind personal regards through the coming year, I am 

Sincerely yours, 
B. T. Dickson 
Executive Secretary 

Dr. V. Ward Barr, pastor of the First Baptist Church of 
Gastonia, N. C. and member of the Baptist Foreign Mis- 
sion Board, and his family made a world tour of the mis- 
sion fields in July, 1958. On his return he preached a most 
inspiring sermon to his congregation on the subject, 
about which I wrote Dr. M. A. Huggins, General Secre- 
tary of N. C. Baptists and Dr. Huggins replied as follows: 

September 2, 1958 

Dear Brother Thornburg: 

I add a word to the letter that Miss Duncan, secretary, 
wrote you on August 15. You had written about the very fine 
sermon of Ward Barr's, "It is Christ or Chaos." 

The program, I think, is complete, but I am sending your 
letter on to John Lawrence, pastor of the First Baptist Church 
of Shelby, chairman of the committee. If Ward can't be used 
for that message this year, I will keep in mind to try to get 
him on some other program, Brotherhood, etc. 



133 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

Then, I write this note as a personal word to you. In other 
days I knew you as a leader when you were younger— and 
both of us were younger!— in Training Union work, I believe. 
I haven't seen you in many years, but I have always had a 
high regard for you and I wanted you to know it. 

Fraternally, 
M. A. Huggins 

Selected Speeches 

On many occasions I have been invited to serve as an 
after-dinner speaker at service clubs and social functions. 
These speeches are always varied to suit the particular 
occasion. I usually iveave in between my jokes a few 
strands of a more serious vein. Because of the variation of 
these subjects I am omitting the more serious thoughts 
and relating some of the jokes and stories I have used. 

Friends, it is a real pleasure to participate with you on this 
occasion. Considering the good food it is more important to 
me than to you. Up in Canada, I am told, they have large 
families. While visiting the Dionne family in Canada in 1936 
I verified this story and found the families were usually very 
large. The father of one family of 15 children took them all 
down to Quebec some years ago to show them a big bull 
moose being exhibited there. When he and his wife lined up 
the 15 children and called for 17 tickets, the manager heard 
him ask if there was any reduction on this number of tickets 
since his family was so large. The manager replied, "Yes, just 



134 



The Thread of My Life 

march them in free of charge for it is more important that 
the moose see your family than that you see our show." 

I have eaten so much that I am tempted to do what the 
Irishman did on one occasion. He was hired by his Jewish 
neighbor to work in his field. The Jewish neighbor told him 
to come early and have breakfast with him. After the break- 
fast, the Jew, thinking they could save time and get more 
work done, proposed that they also eat lunch at that time. 
After they had finished lunch the Jew then proposed that they 
could save more time by also eating dinner. The Irishman 
let out his belt another notch and started on the dinner. After 
the dinner the Jew said, "We will now go to the field and get 
in a straight day's work." The Irishman replied, "Not me. I 
always go home after dinner." 

I rarely ever bring notes on paper or much on my mind 
for an after dinner speech. Which reminds me of the farmer 
who took a load of potatoes and apples to town in his two 
wheel cart. The heavy load shoved the cart forward on a 
steep hill and the old mule had to run to keep out of its way. 
When the cart reached the bottom, there was deep mud and 
the mule could not pull it out. The farmer got out and went 
to the back of the cart to unload. Noticing that the potatoes 
and apples had bounced out as he came down the hill, he ex- 
claimed to the mule, "Here we are in the middle of a bad 
fix— stalled and nothing to unload." 

In fact, my speeches are usually about like that of the 
fourth little boy who was called on to speak. 



135 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

The first little boy said his speech was like a dog's tail 
"bound to occur." 

The second boy said his speech was like a rat's tail "long 
and with a point." 

The third boy said his speech was like a cat's tail "fur to 
the end." 

The fourth boy, being somewhat confused as to what he 
should say about his speech, arose and announced that his 
speech was like a rabbit's tail "just a mere suggestion." 

It will, therefore, not be necessary for you to do as the old 
Negro deacon did on one occasion when his pastor preached 
on "The Major and Minor Prophets." After preaching about 
one and one-half hours on the major prophets, he turned to 
the deacon and said, "Now Deacon Jones, so much for the 
major prophets. Where shall we place the minor ones?" Dea- 
con Jones arose, pushed his chair forward, and said, "Brother 
Parson, you can give one of them my seat 'cause Fs going 
home." 

Most speakers get on a "detour" when they start speaking. 
Having accumulated too much material for their speech, they 
forget to confine themselves to the facts. 

Which reminds me of some of Mutt and Jeff's experiences. 

Jeff went out on a trip in his little car. When he returned, 
Mutt asked him how he found the roads. Jeff replied, "The 
roads named for Washington and Lee and other great Ameri- 
cans were good but those named for that everlasting French- 
man 'De Tour' were terrible." 



i 3 6 



The Thread of My Life 

One day Jeff went to see his girl and came back with a 
large bunch of lilacs. Mutt, not knowing Jeff had a girl, asked 
where he got them. When Jeff told him that his girl gave 
them to him, Mutt threw him out the window and exclaimed, 
"Anybody that would lilac that." 

In conclusion, I feel that I should say a word of commen- 
dation in a little more serious vein about your program, 
which I observe is to promote unselfishness in your commu- 
nity and wholesome social life for the young people. It has 
long since been proven that a selfish individual makes no 
worthwhile contribution to anyone. Eventually we get back 
what we give out. We can always remember that "What is 
good for the goose is also good for the gander." 

The American Legion magazine contained this story. On 
the beach a genial fat man watched a group of shapely young 
ladies in scanty swim suits as they went through their morn- 
ing setting-up exercises. "Do you think this sort of thing is 
really good for reducing?" a sour-visaged acquaintance de- 
manded. "Unquestionably," beamed the fat man. "I walk 
three miles every morning to watch it." 

I wish also to commend you for your interest in wholesome 
social life for the young people of the community. They are 
the future of the community and of the nation and their 
potential for good cannot be estimated. As expressed by the 
poet: 

A diamond in the rough 
Is a diamond sure enough. 



r 37 



MILES O. THORNBURG 



Before it ever shines 

It has the diamond stuff. 

Of course someone must find it 

Or it never would be found. 

And then someone must grind it 

Or it never would be ground. 

But when it's found and when it's ground 

And when it's burnished bright, 

That diamond's everlastingly 

Just sending forth the light. 

Oh, worker in the community, 

Don't say I've done enough; 

For the most insignificant boy or girl 

May be a diamond in the rough. 

Yes, may I add, young people need social life. It is a God- 
given proclivity and a preeminent characteristic. It is need- 
less to try to stifle the social impulse, but it is possible to 
channel it for high and noble purposes. 

In 1942 I ivas asked to appear on a patriotic program 
and speak three minutes on ec America!' This was my 
feeble effort— 

America's history roots in divine Providence. Well-timed 
fogs and swollen rivers sa\ed Washington's men from anni- 
hilation. Even the destruction of the Spanish Armada had 
great bearing on the fortunes of history and the ultimate 
nature of the United States of America and her institutions. 



i 3 8 



The Thread of My Life 

One of the factors in the founding of the United States of 
America was a religious motive. 

The American way of life roots itself in great biblical prin- 
ciples and concepts. The worth and dignity of the individual, 
the competency of the soul, the democracy of believers and 
the theory of inalienable rights all come from the Bible. 

America has been the haven of more oppressed and under- 
privileged people than any nation in history. 

The goal of our leaders was the realization of the "four 
freedoms" in their entirety. 

With all her faults America provides more freedom, more 
opportunity, and more security for her people than any na- 
tion on earth. 

The United States of America is in the most strategic posi- 
tion of any nation in the world. She will be less ravaged by 
war, has more developed resources, is uniquely located, and 
will be more intact than any major power. 

The United States of America provides the world's greatest 
missionary force. Will she share the best she has with man- 
kind? No nation in all history has or will face such a chal- 
lenge. We can be the difference in a terrible chaos or a dur- 
able peace." 

A speech I delivered some years ago before the Gas- 
tonia Masonic bodies: 

Fellow Masons- 
Masonry is universal. The boast of the Emperor, Charles V, 
that the sun never set on his vast empire, may be applied 



139 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

with equal truth to the Order of Freemasonry. From east to 
west and from north to south over the habitable globe are our 
lodges disseminated. Wherever the wandering steps of civ- 
ilized man have left their foot-prints, there have our Temples 
been established. The lessons of Masonic Love have pene- 
trated into the wilderness of the west and the red man of our 
soil have shared with his more enlightened brother the mys- 
teries of our science; while arid sands of the African desert 
have been more than once the scene of a Masonic greeting. 
Masonry is not a fountain, giving health and beauty to some 
hamlet, and slaking the thirst of those only who dwell upon 
its humble banks: but it is a mighty stream, penetrating 
through every hill and mountain, and gliding through every 
field and valley of the earth, bearing in its beneficent bosom 
the abundant waters of love and charity for the poor, the 
widow, and the orphan of every land. 

The very soul of Masonry is brotherly love and as expressed 
by the poet, "it is the set of the soul that determines its goal." 

Although dating back to the beginning of time and having 
made wonderful progress, Freemasonry has not been without 
opposition. Mackey says, "There is no country in which 
Masonry has ever existed in which this opposition has not 
from time to time exhibited itself, although, in general, it 
has been overcome by the purity and innocence of the insti- 
tution." 

Mackey does not state the reason for this opposition because 
the reasons are too well known to Masons, and I might men- 
tion in passing that two of the principle reasons are: 1. that 
Masons lay much claim (and rightly so) to Bible history and 



140 



The Thread of My Life 

2. Masons who are conscientious and sincere Masons make 
most excellent Churchmen. In fact, no one can be the best 
Mason without being a loyal church member. As great as 
Masonry is, when a man puts it before his church, he is not 
a good Mason, however active he may be in the work of the 
Lodge. 

Freemasonry is the predominating fraternal organization 
on the face of the earth. Its leaders have both pioneered and 
led in the establishment of every civilization. Masons played 
a big part in the founding of this country. Our first president 
was a Mason and presided in the East, as have many succeed- 
ing presidents. 

The heart of Masonry and its beneficial Spirit, together 
with the sciences it represents, makes it a great constructive 
character-building organization — building a bridge, over 
which it passes and over which those who follow may also 
pass. 

A speech made in 1934 during the time of labor dis- 
putes. 

The announcement today of the investigation of the so- 
called munitions manufacturers racket reminded me of some- 
thing that is now uppermost in the minds of a great many 
American citizens, namely— the need of an investigation of 
the labor leaders racket. I travel quite extensively (having 
been in practically every Southeastern State this summer) , 
and have talked with hundreds of citizens in various indus- 
tries and all are emphatic in their opinion that the present 



141 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

textile strike is the most vicious racket ever perpetrated on 
the American people. 

It is in open violation of law, in that it is necessarily 
directed toward the Textile Code and N. R. A. Public senti- 
ment is overwhelmingly against it. Even the mill operatives, 
strikers and non-strikers will tell you almost invariably: 
"There is no grievance— just a national movement." 

It is generally known and conceded that high up labor 
leaders are exploiting labor today and are planting into 
their minds through their agitators the most insidious doc- 
trines against their employers. I heard one of these agitators 
and organizers speak recently and his speech was nasty, vile 
and practically everything he said was a gross misrepresenta- 
tion of fact. 

It is the belief of many thinking people that these high up 
labor leaders are drawing enormous salaries and commissions 
from dues which accounts for their zeal in keeping up agita- 
tion and fomenting strife where peace would otherwise dom- 
inate. This constitutes what I have referred to as a 'Vicious 
racket." I believe you will agree this should be investigated. 
The actions of these labor leaders are frought with grave 
possibilities. It will be interesting to see what these labor lead- 
ers salaries are, where they come from and whether or not 
they pay income tax on them. A political campaign is often 
investigated— why should not a racket like the present one by 
labor leaders and their cohorts be investigated, especially in 
view of the fact that this agitation is designed to destroy hap- 
piness and sew seeds of discontent. I sincerely believe the tax 
paying public would welcome and be benefited thereby. 



142 



The Thread of My Life 

This speech was delivered by the writer to the employ- 
ees of Groves Thread Co. after the failure of the textile 
labor leaders to push their union into the Groves and 
other Southern plants where there was no union or desire 
for one by the great majority of the employees. Our mills 
and other non union mills agreed to close for two weeks 
until the racket was over. 

Notwithstanding labor leaders' statement to the contrary 
the strike was a miserable failure. It was destined to fail from 
the beginning due to the fact that it was inopportune, un- 
called for and therefore unwise. Furthermore it was not rep- 
resentative of the employees as a whole. For instance in our 
own plant the 80 per cent loyal operatives not only consti- 
tuted the vast majority but also, with probably a few excep- 
tions, compose the cream of our organization. The picketing 
that came to our mill from other plants represented the worst 
element in those mills. 

Someone has humorously but truthfully stated that labor 
leaders were foolish enough to call it a strike but died on first 
base. In fact, it is generally known that labor leaders and their 
cohorts would not have gotten to first base had they not 
employed the most violent and vicious means of intimidation 
and lawlessness. It is generally agreed that the only thing won 
in the strike was a large sum of money by these labor 
leaders. The employees' loss was their gain. It always works 
out that way and the sad part about it is the employees that 
were loyal to their employers suffered along with the strikers. 

Don't take my word for it. Just talk with most any level 



H3 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

headed business man or professional man today and he will 
tell you that the conduct of the pickets was a disgrace to the 
country to say nothing of the fact that the strike was unjusti- 
fied. Everybody knows where the vicious methods used by 
strikers came from. The fact that they were used all over the 
country in the same way and at the same time indicated that 
they immigrated from headquarters and were not framed up 
locally. 

I will venture to say that the general public, the non-strik- 
ers (who constitute about 75 per cent of all operatives) and 
even a large percentage of the strikers themselves will agree 
that the present National Union leadership has proven itself 
untrustworthy and that Unionism has been set back for many 
years if not permanently injured in this country. It seems to 
illustrate the truthfulness of the old saying that "A bad thing 
will kill itself if turned loose." 

Since there was admittedly no grievance in our own plant 
it would have been bad enough for our employees to have 
taken the financial loss they have suffered for the sake of 
comrades elsewhere but the fact that the strike was not justi- 
fiable makes it too bad— in fact a total loss. 

It may be hard to do, but I honestly believe that the Chris- 
tian duty of every striker is to apologize to his fellow work- 
ers and at the same time resolve that Union or no Union 
from this time forward we will attend to our own business 
and insist on others doing the same. 

Let it be understood that except for unpeaceful picketing 
and acts of violence and unlawfulness we are not holding the 
unfortunate affair against the strikers. We appreciate the fact 



144 



The Thread of My Life 

that many of you were misled and are therefore more to be 
pitied than blamed, so let us like men and brethren forget it 
and profit by our mistake. Some of you were disappointed 
Monday morning when you were unable to get work. Unfor- 
tunately we could not put our full force to work Monday 
morning. The unfortunate strike made it necessary for us to 
cancel some business and set up current specifications for 
later delivery. Consequently we can not, to begin with, use 
more than about 75 per cent of our full force. In distributing 
the work Monday morning you will agree it was only fair to 
call in first as many of those that had petitioned us for work 
last week that we could use. It will not be our policy to dis- 
criminate against members of the Union and certainly we 
could not afford to discriminate against loyal operatives. We 
must, however, use some discretion in taking back operatives 
who are guilty of violence and lawlessness. We wish to assure 
you that we will call in from the unemployed ranks in our 
village additional operatives as fast as conditions will justify. 

Some years ago our city adopted the slogan <e Gastonia— 
City of Growing Beauty." Some thought the slogan was 
then somewhat of a joke but they probably had more in 
mind its then present condition than the possibilities and 
aims for the future. Gastonia has in the meantime made 
marvelous progress and is now one of the most beautiful 
cities in the nation. 

In this connection, I think it would be appropriate 
here to record a radio speech I was asked to make several 
years ago in connection with a clean-up program that was 



145 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and headed by 
Mr. Van Covington, Mr. Bill Hair and Mr. Brice Dick- 
son— 

Not knowing until late today that I was to make this radio 
speech this evening I find myself in the same predicament as 
the lady who was up in the air with nothing to wear— except 
that I am up on the air with nothing to say. 

However, I don't need to make any apology for the clean- 
up program. In fact, I understand that the entire committee 
has agreed to take a bath this weekend and that will help 
some. (This last statement all in fun.) 

Seriously speaking, this clean-up program is immensely 
worthwhile. It is worth the consideration of every loyal citi- 
zen of this splendid community— and is already getting results. 
The old saying "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" is some- 
times given as a Bible quotation. It is really not a Bible 
quotation but is based on the Bible and contains just as much 
truth. Clean premises, a clean body and a clean mind go 
hand in hand and you can hardly have one without the other 
two. 

Since I represent the industrial community I think it is in 
order to suggest several things that make for cleanliness and 
sanitation. At the Groves Thread Company, with which I am 
connected, we clean up daily inside our plants and an outside 
force polices and cleans up the premises twice each week. 

It is very rare that we have an employee reported sick. 

Now getting back up street, it's encouraging to see the fine 
spirit shown by our City Council in cleaning up our slum 

146 



The Thread of My Life 

districts. Certainly no one is more interested in this than our 
City Council but they need to know that the citizenship of 
this community is back of them and that they can count on 
us to back them up 100 per cent. 

The entire city sighed with relief yesterday to learn that 
slum row was finally to be cleared up. There are also other 
places in our city, less conspicuous perhaps, that need to be 
cleaned up in more ways than one, and I am sure our Coun- 
cil and our police welcome the interest we take as individual 
citizens in these worthy undertakings but the interest must 
be individual before it can be collective and the emphasis 
therefore, is necessarily on individual and 100 per cent coop- 
eration. 

Let me add in conclusion that nothing could add more to 
our public morals or serve as a better advertisement for our 
fair city than cleanliness and beautification. 

When invited to speak at the Pastor's Conference on 
the work of the pastor from a layman's viewpoint, I pre- 
sented the following— 

A Layman Looks at his Pastor— What He Expects of Him 

I. As a man— just what word "man" implies: 

So much is expected of a pastor that he has to try to be a 
Samson in most every way. May I suggest: 

1 . Man of excellent character. 

2. A man in whom people can confide. 

3. A pal to men and boys of the church. 



H7 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

4. Head of a happy home. 

5. Live well-rounded life— Christ example. 

II. As a student: 

1. Be a consistent student. 

2. A daily student of the Bible. 

3. A daily student of current events. 

4. A student of current literature. 

5. A student of human life. 

6. Prepare sermons well and repeat when needed. A good 
old Negro preacher used the same text and preached 
the same sermon three times in succession. When he 
announced the same subject for the third time, he was 
reminded by Deacon Jones that he had already used it 
twice. The Negro preacher said, "Yes Sar, I know that, 
but you have not heeded yet. When you comply with 
sermon No. 1, I will proceed with sermon No. 2. 

7. Close student of denominational programs, plans, etc. 

III. As a pastor: 

1. Lead the members in the promotion of every objective 
that will strengthen the ministry of the church. 

2. Serve faithfully in the promotion of every practical 
church and denominational objective. 

3. A good visitor and counselor. 

4. He should participate in all phases of the church work. 

5. The pastor is the first officer of each and every organi- 
zation of the church. He is called of God to be the 
spiritual leader in the church he serves. Upon him rests 
the responsibility of leading the entire membership of 

i 4 8 



The Thread of My Life 

the church into active worship and service. Therefore, 
every activity of the church rightly begins with the pas- 
tor. 

The pastor is a busy man. He must pray, study, preach, 
visit, hold conferences and perform many other duties which 
often keeps him busy from early morning until late at night. 
No pastor should try to attend all the meetings held by the 
various organizations in his church but every pastor should 
attend as often as possible for his presence will lend encour- 
agement and inspiration. 

IV. As a preacher— preach the word. 

I asked my old colored maid one Monday morning if she 
had a good preacher. She replied, "I sho does. He preaches 
the word— preaches it Holy." 

1. Sound forth the saving message of Christ to lost people 
in his church and community. 

2. His message should be based solely on the Scriptures, 
preaching about prevalent sins and fearlessly speaking 
out on any subject affecting the morals of the church, 
community or nation. 

3. His preaching should summon the laymen of his church 
to be faithful stewards with all with which God has 
endowed them and lead them to understand and re- 
spond to: 

a. The call of the church. 

b. The spirit of the church. 

c. The program of the church, and the challenge which 
the church offers. 



149 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

In 1942 after serving for ten years as General Superin- 
tendent of the First Baptist Sunday School at Gastonia, 
N. C, the Gaston Baptist Association asked me to speak 
at their annual convention on the "Layman and his 
Church." I gave much and prayerful thought to the sub- 
ject over many days and finally wrote out an outline that 
I have used, with considerable variations, before lay- 
men's meetings and other religious gatherings about one 
hundred times in various parts of the South. 

In the preparation of this speech, four things seem to 
stand out in my mind— namely The Call of the Layman, The 
Spirit of the Layman, The Program of the Layman, and the 
Challenge his Church offers him. 

Even as a layman, I have always felt that one should never 
endeavor to speak on any religious subject without having 
and using a scriptural background. I therefore consider John 
3:16, Matthew 28: 19-20 and II Timothy 2:15 most appro- 
priate. These in order read: 

'Tor God so loved the world, that He gave His only begot- 
ten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, 
but have everlasting life." 

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in 
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy 
Ghost, teaching them to observe all thing whatsoever I have 
commanded you; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the 
end of the world." 

"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman 

150 



The Thread of My Life 

that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word 
of truth." 

A Christian layman cannot read these scriptures without 
being profoundly impressed with God's great love and sacri- 
fice for us; to feel the urge to react to the great commission 
and to work efficiently and effectively in his church and 
denominational program. 

Now, let's consider the four steps of the layman. 

I. The Call of the Layman. 

Yes, laymen are called into service. We all have talents of 
some kind that can be used in some way, and the story of the 
talents shows clearly that the one talent man receives the same 
reward as the five talent man, if he uses his talent. The Bible 
also teaches that our talents will be greatly multiplied if used. 
The farmer knows that an unused tool will rust out as quick- 
ly as a used one will wear out. As a young layman back in 
1915-1917, I used to go around with Dr. Frank H. Leavell, 
who was then secretary of Baptist Young People's Work in 
Georgia. I heard Mr. Leavell make many speeches and almost 
invariably he would say, * 'There is in the heart of every re- 
generated person a desire to serve in some way his Lord." 

While attending high school in 1910, my pastor, Dr. Red- 
dish observed that I was teaching a class of Junior boys for 
the Sunday School Superintendent, Mr. Joe Wray. This gave 
Dr. Reddish the idea I planned to study for the ministry so 
he asked me one day. When I told him no, he replied, "Your 
reply does not disappoint me for the greatest need is for con- 

151 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

secrated laymen who will heed the call to work in the vine- 
yard of their Lord." 

Abraham responded to the call and became the "Father of 
the Faithful." 

Solomon responded to the call and became the wisest man 
of his day. 

Isaiah responded to the call by saying, "Here am I, send 
me." 

Samuel heard the call and responded, "Speak, Lord, for 
thy servant heareth." 

The disciples heard and responded to the call and became 
the first great missionaries of Christianity. 

The same call that came to the fishermen of old comes to 
the layman today, "Follow Me," says Jesus, "and I will make 
you fishers of men." 

II. The Spirit of the Layman. 

Sometimes the layman's spirit is not too good. In fact, more 
like a mule than the lovely race horse. When I was a boy on 
the farm, I had some experience plowing a white mule in a 
new ground. If you have never done this, you cannot fully 
understand and appreciate the old expression "Stubborn as 
a mule." 

The spirit of the layman involves cooperation possibly 
more than any other thing. In our daily vocations, coopera- 
tion is generally understood and appreciated and automati- 
cally becomes a part of our initiative but in the freedom of 
our church work, its importance is sometimes forgotten. 

Cooperation can best be illustrated by the poem about two 



The Thread of My Life 

black mules written many years ago by an unknown author. 
The mules were tied to the opposite end of a rope and each 
pulling in opposite directions trying to reach a pile of hay on 
each side. The picture accompanying the poem showed that 
they finally came to the center for a conference and then 
both went together to one side and then to the other and 
enjoyed the hay. The poem ran like this— 

Two mules which were equally strong, 
Were tied to a rope about ten feet long. 
Said one to the other, "You come my way 
While I take a nibble at this new mown hay." 
"I won't/' said the other, "You come with me. 
For I, too, have some hay, you see." 
So they got nowhere— just pawed up dirt, 
And, oh, how their necks that rope did hurt. 
Then they faced about, those stubborn mules, 
And said, "We are just like human fools. 
Let's pull together. I'll go your way, 
Then come with me, and we'll both eat hay!" 
Well, they ate their hay, and liked it, too, 
And swore to be comrades good and true. 
As the sun went down, they were heard to say, 
Ah, this is the end of a perfect day. 

In other words, the layman's spirit is the layman's soul as 
expressed by the little poem- 
One ship sails East, and the other sails West, 
By the self same winds that blow. 
'Tis the set of the sail and not the gale, 



153 



MILES O. THORNBURG 



That determines the way they go. 

Like the winds of the sea are the waves of time, 

As we journey along through life. 

'Tis the set of the soul that determines our goal, 

And not the calm or the strife. 
Even if we discussed the spirit of the layman at great length 
we would have to come back to the conclusion that it should 
be nothing more or nothing less than the spirit of Christ as 
exemplified in the lives of laymen. 

III. The Program of the Layman. 

The program of the layman is largely one for church 
planning at the denominational and local church levels. If 
you tell me the plans and program of your denomination and 
your church, I will tell you the program of the layman for 
they are one and the same. The layman's Brotherhood spon- 
sors the whole work of the church, hence, the layman should 
be vitally interested in all activities of his church. The Broth- 
erhood, the Sunday School, and the Training Service of the 
church affords marvelous opportunities for laymen to work 
with the young people. 

In my work, I have had numerous opportunities and soul 
stirring experiences with young people by working through 
these church organizations as a teacher or officer. If space 
would permit, I could relate many, but I mention only one. 
About 1929, a handsome twelve year old boy came to my 
office to deliver a telegram. Being superintendent of my Sun- 
day School, I was on the lookout for new members so I made 
his acquaintance and found he had just moved to my town 



154 



The Thread of My Life 

and was interested in my church. I made a date with him to 
show him the town and then take him to Sunday School 
where I placed him in the twelve year class in the Junior 
Department. In the meantime, I had an opportunity to dis- 
cuss with him the New Testament plan of salvation. His 
response was glorious and following the service, he went for- 
ward and made a public profession and joined the church. He 
has been an active member of the church through the years, 
has a lovely family, is treasurer of a large corporation in our 
city, and an officer and largest contributor in his church. 

This is the program of the church. This is the program of 
the layman. The various organizations of the church are very 
important but they succeed only to the extent that they do 
three things, namely— teach the Bible, win the unsaved to 
Christ, and to the Church, and enlist them in the service of 
the Church. 

I like to think of the layman as a bridge builder, as ex- 
pressed in the immortal poem— 

An old man, going a lone highway, 
Came at evening, cold and gray, 
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide, 
Through which was flowing a sullen tide. 
The old man crossed in the twilight dim- 
That sullen stream had no fears for him; 
But he turned, when he reached the other side, 
And built a bridge to span the tide. 

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near, 
"You are wasting strength in building here, 



l 5S 



MILES O. THORNBURG 

Your journey will end with the ending day; 
You never again must pass this way, 
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide, 
Why build you the bridge at eventide?" 

The builder lifted his old gray head, 

"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said, 

"There folio weth after me today 

A youth whose feet must pass this way. 

This chasm that has been naught to me 

To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be. 

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; 

Good friend, I am building the bridge for him." 

IV. The Challenge the Church Offers the Layman. 

Having considered the call, the spirit, and the program 
of the layman, there comes to our minds and hearts a great 
challenge to work in the vineyard of our Lord. 

Many laymen have failed to accept the challenge because 
they ignored the call, hence, did not come to feel the spirit 
and understand the layman's program. On the other hand, 
many laymen are accepting the challenge and the opportu- 
nity to be of great service in their church and community 
and some, like Mr. Howard Butt, Mr. R. G. LeTourneau and 
others are extending their beneficent influence throughout 
the U.S.A. and many foreign countries. 

The opportunity may be small but its potential may be 
large and expanding if we will find time as expressed by the 
poet: 

i 5 6 



The Thread of My Life 

Opportunity knocked at the door, 

With a chance for a fellow within. 

He rapped 'til his fingers were sore, 

And muttered, "Come on, let me in. 

"I've a job that ought to be done 

It's a chance if you've time to take it." 

Said the fellow within, "Come along, pass it in, 

I'll either find time or I'll make it." 
In 1917, Dr. Floyd Fields, recently retired dean of Georgia 
Tech, of Atlanta, spoke to the Interdenominational Sunday 
School Superintendent Congress in Atlanta, of which I was 
a member. He then taught mathematics at the Boys High 
School. Each of us around the tables in the dining room at 
the Ansley Hotel were asked to stand and state our vocation 
and job in the church. When Dr. Fields arose, he said, "My 
main job in life is teaching a class of boys at the North 
Avenue Presbyterian Church— I teach math at Boys High 
School in order to support my family." Dr. Fields had ac- 
cepted the challenge. 

I fully agree with Dr. I. J. Van Ness that the place of the 
layman in the church is a high place under the sun. We 
should thank God for the opportunity to serve and go about 
our work with a consuming zeal. 

While visiting once with Mr. J. F. Jarman of the great 
Jarman and General Shoe Companies, I observed his slogan 
reading, "God first, Family second, Shoes third." No one need 
inquire as to the secret of Mr. Jarman's success as a manu- 
facturer and layman for it was evident from his slogan that 
he had put God first in his life. 



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